GOVT TALKS TOUGH, TELLS TWITTER TO DEACTIVATE 257 HANDLES - The Daily Guardian
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GOVT TALKS TOUGH, TELLS TWITTER TO DEACTIVATE 257 HANDLES

India reminds Twitter about the action taken by the micro-blogging website during the Capitol Hill episode in the United States and compares that with the Republic Day disturbance at the Red Fort in India and its aftermath.

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Taking a tough stand, the Centre has asked Twitter to delete 257 handles, calling it “non-negotiable”, as per the reports.

On the request of Twitter, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, held a virtual interaction with Monique Meche, Vice President Global Public Policy and Jim Baker Deputy General Counsel and Vice President Legal.

In view of the order issued by the Government of India directing Twitter to remove Tweets and accounts using hashtag related to “farmer genocide” and accounts supported by Khalistan sympathisers and backed by Pakistan and blog post issued by Twitter on Wednesday morning, this meeting took place as per schedule, according to a Press Information Bureau (PIB) release.

The Twitter leadership affirmed its commitment towards following Indian laws and rules. It also expressed its continuing commitment towards building its services in India. It also requested for better engagement between the Government of India and Twitter’s global team, the press release said.

The secretary told the Twitter representatives that in India, “We value freedom and we value criticism because it is part of our democracy. India has a robust mechanism for protection of freedom of speech and expression that is very elaborately explained as Fundamental Rights under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution of India. But freedom of expression is not absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions as mentioned in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India. Various judgments of the Supreme Court have also upheld this from time to time.”

He further highlighted that Twitter is welcome to do business in India. “Due to India’s conducive business environment, open Internet and firm commitment to the freedom of expression, Twitter as a platform has grown significantly in India in the last few years. Twitter, as a business entity working in India, must also respect the Indian laws and democratic institutions. 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 secretary took up the issue of using a hashtag on “farmer genocide” with Twitter executives and expressed strong displeasure on the way Twitter acted after an emergency order was issued to remove this hashtag and content related to that. 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. 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.”

The secretary reminded Twitter about the action taken by Twitter during the Capitol Hill episode in the US and compared that with the disturbance in Red Fort in India and its aftermath. He expressed dissatisfaction over Twitter’s differential treatment in the two incidents.

The secretary also mentioned that revelations around a certain “Toolkit” has made it evident that a strong social media campaign was planned in a foreign country around farmers’ protest. Misuse of Twitter’s platform for execution of such campaigns designed to create disharmony and unrest in India is unacceptable and Twitter must take strong action against such well-coordinated campaigns against India, through compliance with the applicable law of the land.

Lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity. They must be obeyed immediately. If they are executed days later, it becomes meaningless. The secretary expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about the manner in which Twitter has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order. He took this opportunity to remind Twitter that in India, its Constitution and laws are supreme. It is expected that responsible entities not only reaffirm but remain committed to compliance to the law of land, as per the press release.

The government conveyed to the Twitter leadership that the manner in which Twitter officially allows fake, unverified, anonymous and automated bot accounts to be operated on its platform, raises doubts about its commitment to transparency and healthy conversation on this platform.

As per reports, the government will promote the swadeshi platform “Koo” against Twitter.Indications are that maximum ministers from the Indian government may soon be shifting to the Koo platform.

Twitter India on Tuesday had responded to the government of India and requested a formal dialogue with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. “An acknowledgement to the receipt of the non-compliance notice has also been formally communicated,” the company had said in a statement.

As per reports, this week, the government sent a notice to Twitter India where it asked another 1178 accounts to be removed from the platform. This was the second notice, after a few days, when Twitter failed to remove or block around 250 accounts and tweets that the government registered as a non-compliance of its orders.

Twitter India in a blog post earlier on Wednesday posted its response to blocking orders from the government.

“Beginning on 26 January 2021, our global team provided 24/7 coverage and took enforcement action judiciously and impartially on content, Trends, Tweets, and accounts that were in violation of the Twitter Rules—our global policy framework that governs every Tweet on the service,” the company said in its blog post.

The company also added that it took a range of enforcement actions, including permanent suspension in certain cases against more than 500 accounts escalated across all MeitY orders for clear violations of Twitter’s rules.

Twitter also listed some of the actions it took as per the government orders, “Specifically, we took action on hundreds of accounts that violated the Twitter rules, particularly inciting violence, abuse, wishes of harm, and threats that could trigger the risk of offline harm, prevented certain terms that violated our Rules from appearing in the Trends section, suspended more than 500 accounts that were clear examples of platform manipulation and spam, tackled misinformation based on the highest potential for real-world harm, and prioritized labelling of Tweets that were in violation of our synthetic and manipulated media policy.”

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