Twitter takes Indian government to court over content-blocking orders

Legal complaint filed against ministry in social media row

Twitter has challenged the Indian government over its recent orders to take down some content on the social media platform. AP
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Twitter began legal proceedings against the Indian government on Wednesday over its orders to take down certain content posted on the platform.

In the latest escalation in the continuing face off between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and the social media company, Twitter filed a legal complaint against the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, alleging “disproportionate” use of power.

“Multiple accounts and content included in the Blocking Orders are either overboard and arbitrary, fail to provide notice to the originators of the content, and are disproportionate in several cases,” Twitter said in the petition as seen by The National.

India is the third-largest audience for Twitter in the world, with an estimated 23.6 million users on the platform as of January this year.

The deadlock between Mr Modi’s government and the social media platform began in June last year when the government issued a final warning to the company to conform with new laws that require social media companies to appoint local officers for the redressal of grievances.

It had also asked the company to pull down a large number of posts on the widespread farmer’s agitation.

Twitter had refused to comply with the orders and did not act on several accounts and posts, particularly those of politicians and journalists.

The legal suit came a week after the IT Ministry had given Twitter “one last opportunity” to comply with the takedown orders issued under India's information technology law or it will face criminal proceedings.

Twitter filed a plea before the Karnataka High Court and reportedly said that several suspension orders by the government had no relation to national security, public order or incitement to an offence.

“They demonstrate excessive use of powers and are disproportionate. For example, in several cases there are demands for entire accounts to be blocked … several could pertain to political content that is posted by official handles of political parties,” the petition said.

“Blocking of such information is a violation of freedom of speech … further, there has been no showing that the accounts contain content in which at least a majority falls within the narrowly tailored grounds of Section 69A."

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India’s junior minister for information technology, said that while foreign internet platforms can seek legal action, they have to comply with Indian laws.

“In India, all including foreign Internet intermediaries/platforms have right to court n judicial review. But equally ALL intermediary/platforms operating here, have unambiguous obligation to comply with our laws n rules,” Mr Chandrasekhar tweeted.

Updated: July 06, 2022, 3:50 PM