New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s standoff with Twitter over the fate of several prominent accounts and tweets continued on Wednesday, with senior officials of India’s IT ministry having a virtual meeting with top Twitter executives.
The meeting comes nearly two weeks after the Centre threatened the company’s officials with jail time for not taking down specific tweets and handles that were connected to the recent farmer protests, and less than a day after the social media firm responded that it would not block the accounts of journalists, activists and politicians even if they were part of a legal censorship order.
According to a government press release, the IT secretary expressed “strong displeasure” over the way Twitter acted after an emergency blocking order was issued to remove the ‘farmer genocide’ hashtag and content associated with that.
“Spreading misinformation using an incendiary and baseless hashtag referring to ‘farmer genocide’ at a time when such irresponsible content can provoke and inflame the situation is neither journalistic freedom nor freedom of expression as envisaged under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Despite the attention of Twitter being drawn to such content by the Government through a lawful process, the platform allowed the content with this hashtag to continue, which was extremely unfortunate,” the release noted.
The IT secretary also appears to have drawn a parallel between the action taken by Twitter in the aftermath of the Capitol Hill episode and its apparent inaction after the disturbance at Red Fort.
“He [Secretary] expressed dissatisfaction over Twitter’s differential treatment in the two incidents. A deep sense of disappointment at seeing Twitter side not with ‘freedom of expression’ but rather with those who seek to abuse such freedom and provoke disturbance to public order, was conveyed to the Twitter representative,” the readout noted.
“Secretary also mentioned that revelations around a certain “Toolkit” has made it evident that a strong social media campaign was planned in a foreign country around farmers protest.. Secretary expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about the manner in which Twitter has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order. He took this opportunity to remind Twitter that in India, its Constitution and laws are supreme. It is expected that responsible entities not only reaffirm but remain committed to compliance to the law of land.”
The press release, however, is silent on whether the Modi government’s plans on following through with taking action against the social media company for non-compliance.
For its part, the Twitter leadership — which included Monique Meche, Vice President Global Public Policy, and Jim Baker, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President Legal — affirmed its commitment towards “following Indian laws and rules”.
The executives, according to the press release, also expressed their “continuing commitment” towards building their services in India and requested for “better engagement” between the Centre and Twitter’s global team.