Twitter says India’s blocking orders inconsistent with local law

New Delhi, Feb 10 (efe-epa).- The Indian government’s orders to block hundreds of Twitter accounts are inconsistent with the local law, said the social media company on Tuesday after it took down some Indian handles related to monthslong farmer protests.

Some Twitter handles, including those belonging to news portals, journalists, and activists, were blocked by the company last week after the instruction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Some of the accounts were later restored after a Twitter probe.

The government later threatened legal action and sought an action taken report from the company.

The restrictions came as thousands of farmers have been on a sit-in near the borders of New Delhi in protest against the government’s agricultural reforms perceived to be devastating for peasants.

Twitter on Wednesday withheld a portion of the accounts identified by the government in its blocking orders.

It, however, said these handles would continue to be available outside of India.

“We do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law,” it said.

“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.”

The social media giant said had it done so, it “would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.”

The government said the Twitter response was strange after the microblogging had sought a meeting with the government.

The government said the top bureaucrat of the ministry of information technology was to engage with the senior management of Twitter.

“In this light, a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusual. The government will share its response soon,” the ministry said in a Tweet.

The government had last week sent to Twitter a list of accounts and “provocative” hashtags. These accounts and hashtags allegedly spread misinformation and incite violence during the protests.

“We took steps to reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended search terms,” the company said.

“We took a range of enforcement actions — including permanent suspension in certain cases — against more than 500 accounts escalated across all (government) orders for clear violations of Twitter’s rules.”

It said the company had informed the government of the actions today and would “continue to maintain dialog with the Indian government and respectfully engage with them.” EFE-EPA


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