Twitter removed accounts in India under pressure from Narendra Modi

New Delhi – Twitter took a tough stance when the Indian government last week demanded that the social media platform close hundreds of accounts that the government criticized during its conduct Protest of angry farmers.

On Wednesday, under threat of jail for his local staff, Twitter relied.

The company, based in San Francisco, said it had permanently blocked more than 500 accounts and raised numbers of others from within India after the government accused it of making inflammatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Unspecified. Twitter said it took this step after the government issued a non-consideration notice, with experts saying the company could be in danger of detaining local employees for up to seven years.

in blog post Published on Wednesday, Twitter said it was not taking any action on accounts that concerned media organizations, journalists, activists or politicians, adding that it does not believe in orders to block them “of Indian law Are consistent. ” It also said that it was exploring its options under local laws and requested a meeting with a senior government official.

“We are committed to protecting the health of conversations happening on Twitter,” it said, “and firmly believe the tweet will flow.”

The ongoing confrontation in India provides a particular example of Twitter’s challenge to the conflict Self-proclaimed principles of Support of free speech. Platform is caught In intense debate The external role of social media in politics, and the increasing demand in many countries, mitigated that effect.

In the United States, Twitter was at the center of the clash last month thereafter. Suspended permanently Donald J. Trump, account of former president, for Spirited protest In Washington, DC, that turned violent. In that case, it Exercised his right Under US laws that provide social platforms the ability to police speech on their services.

But in India, Twitter is blocking accounts on the government’s demand. Controlled by Shri Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, the Government of India has become Increasingly aggressive aggression. It has arrested activists and journalists, and pressured media organizations to get on its line. This has cut mobile internet access in troubled areas.

Amid fierce rivalry with China, the Indian government has blocked many apps owned by Chinese companies, With tikkokThe short video-sharing network, best known for its videos of dancing teens and tweezers.

The government has taken a tough stance against its critics on social media. Under Indian law, Twitter’s Indian officials can face up to seven years in prison and fines, if the company fails to comply with government orders, it may remove content that it calls subversive or public order and Considers a threat to national security.

The country’s judiciary is increasingly with the government, handing over political victories to Mr. Modi, a series of lawyers and human rights activists. In November 2019, the Supreme Court of India ruled In favor of hindus In a decades-old dispute over a holy site in Ayodhya fought by Muslims. It also avoided lifting restrictions On internet and movement Is in Fought Jammu and Kashmir region For a government-run committee.

Digital rights groups say the government’s pressure on Twitter is over censorship.

“The power used to ban smartphone apps is the same power used to instruct Twitter to shut down accounts and shut down the Internet,” said Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation.

India, with its 1.3 billion people, represents a potentially huge growth market for global Internet companies, Internet access and an ambitious middle class. The government’s strong hand in business complicates the prospects.

According to the company, the country is at number 5 in terms of Twitter requests to remove content. Transparency report, Followed by Japan, Russia, South Korea and Turkey. The country sent around 5,500 legal demands, including court orders to block the content. It sent approximately 5,900 requests from January 2012 to June 2020 to access users’ personal information.

This partnership came to light last year when a prominent public interest lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, Tweeted criticizing the role of the Indian Supreme Court in ending independence in the country. Twitter deleted the tweets in question. Lawyers and advocates of digital rights said at the time that the company had set a dangerous legal standard. Twitter declined to comment on Wednesday, saying it had deleted Mr. Bhushan’s tweet as per legal instructions.

India’s protesting farmers have opened up a new front in the government’s attempts to thwart social media.

Has been locked in a month-long dispute with Mr. Modi Farmers of the country made their government’s market friendly agricultural laws. Farmers, many Punjab State In the northwest of the country, camps have been set up in areas around the capital of New Delhi. In late January, protests turned violent after farmers entered the city – on several tractors – and clashed with police in some places.

Last week, Mr. Modi’s government asked Twitter to delete more than 1,000 additional accounts related to the protest. It was alleged that many were run by foreign sympathizers of the Khalistan movement, an effort that was more active in previous decades, which called for members of the Sikh faith To break And build your country. Some supported Pakistan, India’s staunch neighbor, the government alleged.

Twitter initially suspended some accounts last week, including the account of The Caravan, a narrative reporting magazine closely covering the demonstrations. It later restored accounts after informing the government that it considered the material acceptable free speech.

The conduct of the Indian government received global attention last week when pop singer Rihanna Retweeted An article about officials blocking Internet access to parts of New Delhi during farmer protests. Greta Thunberg, environmental activist, too Tweeted More about the protests, she shared a link to a tool kit, which included talking points that supported protesters as well as information on how to connect with others with a similar spirit. Supporters of Mr. Modi seized the link, saying it was showing that external forces are supporting the farmers.

Also on Wednesday, the Indian government appeared to show on Twitter that the company needed more than other methods around the country. India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the government’s arm, which has been pressuring Twitter to pick up the content, has posted a response to its blog on Twitter to a competitive service in India called Koo.

A virtual meeting was going on between Twitter officials and government officials on Wednesday evening.

Devdutt Mukhopadhyay, who works on free speech issues in India, said Twitter was striking a “delicate balance”.

“For companies, it’s a double bind,” Ms. Mukhopadhyay said. “They want their services to be available in the country, but they also do not want to get entangled in censorship that does not comply with international human rights standards, being arbitrary or inhuman.”

She said Twitter should be pushed back and “used her clap to show the same amount of courage when she blocked Donald Trump’s account.”

“They should not let it go just because it is a developing country.”

Mujib Mashal contributed reporting.

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