/Twitter must abide by Indian laws, government says

Twitter must abide by Indian laws, government says

The government has conveyed a “deep sense of disappointment” with Twitter and said the micro-blogging platform is siding not with “freedom of expression” but rather with those who seek to abuse such freedom and provoke disturbance to public order.

The company has been told that it is welcome to do business in India but it must respect and abide by the Indian laws, which are enacted by the Parliament of India.

In a meeting chaired by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney and attended by Twitter’s vice-president of global public policy, Monique Meche and Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker, the government expressed strong displeasure on the way Twitter acted after an emergency order was issued to remove the “farmer genocide” hashtag.

“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,” the government said in a statement that was promoted on Koo, the local rival of Twitter, on Wednesday.

It added that 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.”

Twitter earlier in the day stated that it has not taken “any action” to suspend the accounts of news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians as doing so would violate “fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.”

Following the centre’s request to deactivate over 1400 handles, Twitter said it had permanently suspended more than 500 accounts for violations of its rules and withheld action on the rest. This prompted a strong response from the government saying that the blogpost published prior to this engagement is unusual

Twitter did not respond to ET’s request for comments on the meeting.

The government also pointed out “differential treatment” by Twitter about the action taken during the Capitol Hill episode in the USA and after the disturbance at the Red Fort in India and its aftermath.

“Lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity. They must be obeyed immediately. If they are executed days later, it becomes meaningless… Twitter has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order,” the statement said.

The Twitter officials in their response affirmed their commitment towards following Indian laws and rules. They also expressed their continuing commitment

“Twitter is free to formulate its own rules and guidelines, like any other business entity does, but Indian laws which are enacted by the Parliament of India must be followed irrespective of Twitter’s own rules and guidelines,” the government said.

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