Twitter sues Indian government’s order to take down content: Report

A Reuters article says that on Tuesday, Twitter sued the Indian government for abusing its power and asked an Indian court to reverse some government orders to remove information from the social media site.

Twitter received a letter from the IT Ministry last month requesting that it comply with its directives by July 4 in order to maintain its safe harbour status under the intermediary rules. Tuesday, the social networking business sued the Ministry’s content-blocking orders under Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, claiming that government officials were abusing their power.

In the interest of national security, the IT Act grants the government the authority, among other things, to prevent public accessibility to the content. Twitter, which has approximately 24 million users in India, alleged in its filing that a few of the orders failed to inform the material creators. According to the source, some of them were linked to political content shared by the official accounts of political parties, and removing them would violate their right to free speech.

Last year, there were problems between Twitter and the Indian government because Twitter wouldn’t take down accounts and content that New Delhi said spread false information about farmer protests. Twitter has been investigated by police in India, and many government ministers switched to Koo last year, citing Twitter’s breaking of local regulations. Twitter experienced an uproar in India for blocking powerful users, including politicians, citing policy violations.

And during the second wave of COVID in April, Twitter restricted 52 tweets at the government’s request. While the government claimed the tweets disseminated “false news,” most were critical of the government’s pandemic response. In June 2021, the government proceeded formally to take action against cartoonist Manjul’s Twitter account, though it did not explain which of his posts breached the law. During the farmer’s demonstrations, Twitter disabled several tweets and usernames in response to a government order. About 257 Twitter accounts were asked to be removed.

India is considering changes to its new IT regulations, including the creation of a government-run appeals panel with the authority to overturn the content moderation decisions of social media companies. Industry transparency reports show that India is one of the countries where the government asks for the removal of the most content. According to New Delhi, these actions were necessary since the firms had infringed on the fundamental rights of Indians.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, India’s IT Minister, told a Reuters partner on Tuesday, in response to a question about Twitter’s legal move,

Be it any company, in any sector, they should abide the laws of India.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Junior IT Minister, Tweeted,

All companies, including foreign social media intermediaries, have a right to approach the courts. But equally ALL intermediary/platforms operating here, have unambiguous obligation to comply with our laws and rules.