In recent weeks, a controversy has broken out around Twitter and free speech. Things came to a head when Twitter blocked over 200 tweets and handles that the Central government wanted to be removed from public view.
Within hours of the block, the social media network went on to restore some of the accounts and tweets – including the handles of Caravan magazine and Kisan Ekta Morcha.
Over the last few years, the government’s decision to block websites, hashtags and Twitter accounts under legal provisions that cover the “sovereignty and integrity of India” have raised questions about the transparency surrounding the blocking process.
It’s now a lock jam – the government warns of serious consequences for Twitter’s executives in India while the social media company reiterates its commitment to balancing the removal of content with the idea of protecting public conversation.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Centre and Twitter India and sought responses from them on a petition seeking a mechanism to “check Twitter content and advertisements spreading hatred through fake news and instigative messages through bogus accounts.”
In conversation with Mitali Mukherjee, Apar Gupta, executive director at the Internet Freedom Foundation pointed out that the crux of the problem lay in an opaque interpretation of Section 69A ( Under which these decisions are taken) and a lack of transparency around the what and why of moves to block websites and social media handles.