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Acting Against Journalists, Activists, Politicians Would Violate Right to Free Expression: Twitter

The social media giant also added that it was exploring options under Indian law both for “Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted”.

New Delhi: Twitter on Wednesday morning said that while it had recently taken some action on blocking orders issued by India’s IT ministry, it had not blocked accounts that consist of “news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians”.

To do so, the social media giant said in a blogpost, would “violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law”.

Significantly, the company  has also added that it was exploring options under Indian law both for “Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted”.

“…over the course of the last 10 days, Twitter has been served with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act,” the company said in the blogpost.

“Separately, today, we have withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under our Country Withheld Content policy within India only. These accounts continue to be available outside of India. Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law. We informed MeitY of our enforcement actions today, February 10, 2021.,” it added.

The statement represents the clearest demarcation of Twitter’s stand in its ongoing stand-off with the Narendra Modi government over blocking 257 tweets and handles in connection with the agitation by farmers over the new pro-market agricultural laws.

Also read: Understanding the Nuances to Twitter’s Standoff With the Modi Government

On February 1, several prominent Twitter accounts (Caravan magazine, Kisan Ekta Morcha) were blocked, but later restored by the social media network after telling the IT ministry that they constituted free speech and were noteworthy. The government responded by threatening Twitter with penal action for its non-compliance.

In the blogpost, Twitter noted it had taken a number of steps in addition to withholding from public view some of the content requested in the block orders. This includes taking steps to “reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content” and taking a range of enforcement actions against more than 500 accounts “escalated across all MeitY orders for clear violations of Twitter’s Rules”.