Indian government-Twitter row: All you need to know

Siddhant Pandey
·3-min read

Indian government-Twitter row: All you need to know
Indian government-Twitter row: All you need to know

08 Feb 2021: Indian government-Twitter row: All you need to know

In recent days, calls for Twitter to quit India have risen. The microblogging website is facing immense criticism for violating the Indian law by unblocking accounts it had been directed to withhold.

What started with a bunch of tweets about the farmers' protest could now land Twitter executives in jail for up to seven years.

Here's all you need to know about what happened.

Background: India ordered Twitter to block over 250 URLs

Last Monday, 257 Twitter URLs had been blocked following a directive dated January 31, 2021, from India's IT Ministry under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

The details of the directive were not made public at the time, however, the Act seeks to protect India's security and sovereignty.

Later that day, officials of Twitter and the Ministry had held a meeting.

Meeting: After meeting with government, Twitter unblocked accounts

The withheld accounts—which included Kisan Ekta Morcha and The Caravan magazine's Twitter handles—were unblocked after the meeting.

Twitter said the flagged content constituted "free speech" and was "newsworthy." The content included tweets with the hashtag '#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide'.

However, the government reportedly never allowed the company to reverse the action, condemning the "insult" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the "fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets."

Government notice: Government sent notice to Twitter for violating directive

Thereafter, the government sent a notice to Twitter for reinstating the accounts in violation of its directive.

The government issued a warning to Twitter, ordering it to comply with the directive, and also threatened action if it failed to do so.

The government warned that Twitter's top executives could face up to a seven-year jail term for failing to remove "objectionable and inflammatory content."

Criticism: Both government, Twitter draw public ire

There has been growing criticism for both the government and Twitter.

While some members of the public have made calls for Twitter to quit India, others criticize the government for cracking down on free speech.

The exit of Twitter's Public Policy Director for India and South Asia, Mahima Kaul, also sparked conversations, although a statement claimed the resignation was unrelated to the recent developments.

Update: Government asks Twitter to remove over 1,000 'Pakistani-Khalistani' accounts

The government on February 4 shared a list of 1,178 accounts it says belong to Pakistani and Khalistani users that threaten public order.

These accounts had been flagged by security agencies, according to reports.

Reportedly, the government has raised objections to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey "liking" a few tweets by foreign celebrities in support of the farmers' protest.

Quote: Government questions Twitter CEO's 'neutrality' after he liked pro-protest tweets

"The government also objects to Twitter CEO liking some tweets by celebrities as it raises questions on his neutrality," a source told NDTV.

Referring to the thousand-plus accounts that the government has flagged, the source said, "Many of these accounts were also automated bots that were used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative contents on farmers' protests."

Fact: 'Content will be removed if it violates Twitter's Rules'

A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement, "If we receive a valid legal request about potentially illegal content on Twitter, we review it under the Twitter Rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter's Rules, the content will be removed from the service."

Statement: 'We may withhold access to content in location only'

It said, "If it's determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may withhold access to the content in the location only."

"In all cases, we notify the accountholder directly so they're aware we've received a legal order pertaining to the account," it said, adding that Twitter's goal is respecting local law and free expression.