Indian government threatens to fine Twitter employees with up to seven years in prison Recovery of hundreds of accounts It ordered the company to block. Most of the accounts were critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Monday, Twitter complied with the government’s order not to allow more than 250 accounts belonging to activists, political commentators, movie stars and the Caravan news investigative magazine to be viewed in India. Most of the reports criticized Modi, the Hindu nationalist prime minister of India, and his government. But the company resumed accounts about six hours after a Twitter lawyer met with IT ministry officials, claiming that tweets and accounts were free speech and demanded news.
The Government of India did not agree. The Ministry of Information Technology sent a notification to Twitter on Tuesday, ordering it to block accounts once again. It also threatened people working on the Indian Twitter network with legal repercussions, which could include fines and up to seven years in prison.
“This is really problematic,” said Nickel Pahva, a media activist and Internet activist at MediaNama. “I do not understand why the Indian government should enter this area trying to censor tweets when there are much bigger issues to address.”
A Twitter spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for the Ministry of Information Technology did not respond to a request for comment.
This step puts the company in a difficult position. Blocking the accounts once again would mean being accused of playing an active role in the ongoing crackdown on dissent in India, as anti-government protests shake the nation. But to leave the accounts on the platform means to risk political-legal competition in a large market.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the government said the accounts “spread misinformation about the complaints” and had “the potential to lead to outright violence affecting public order in the country.” BuzzFeed News has reviewed a copy of the notice.
The face comes just days after thousands of Indian farmers, who had been protesting for months against agricultural reforms that they said would hurt their income, broke through police barricades and stormed the Mughal-era Red Fort in New Delhi. , Republic Day of India. At least one demonstrator is reported died at Delhi Police Station denied their participation in the incident.
In a statement, the government claimed that the accounts used a hashtag that “turned out to incite people to commit recognizable crimes related to public order and state security.”
Although the Caravan did not use the hashtag, the government claimed that the “news and press releases” were spreading misinformation, inciting “people” to “creating a state of public order.”
The caravan spokesman told BuzzFeed News that his journalism was fair and professional. “We do not understand why the Indian government suddenly thinks that journalists should not talk to all sides of the issue,” Vinod K., the magazine’s executive editor, told BuzzFeed News. They will speak.
Indian law prohibits Twitter from sharing the legal order received on Monday, but the company responded by announcing on Tuesday that the company had retaliated. The document claims that Twitter did not block the accounts until 24 hours after the first order was received, minutes before the Twitter’s lawyer met with government officials on Tuesday.
“It is clear that offensive tweets / hashtags have remained in the public domain; they must have been reposted several times on Twitter, at the risk of public order, as well as at the risk of inciting crime,” the statement said.
According to the announcement, Twitter also sent a reply to the government after meeting with officials who refused to “obey” the government’s order. The Indian claim states that under Indian law, Twitter is required to comply.
The government also backed down on Twitter’s “free speech” argument, saying the company had “no constitutional, statutory or any legal basis” to comment on what constitutes free speech under Indian law.
Twitter claimed that there was “insufficient reason” to block the entire account, saying that the government should order the blocking of individual tweets. In response, the government notice states that this is not the place for Twitter to seek justification from the government.
The legal order is based on Section 69A, an article in Indian IT law that allows the federal government to ask platforms such as Twitter to withhold “any information that is created, transmitted, received, stored or stored on any computer resource.” which can disrupt the “public order.” Platforms like Twitter are not only obligated to place those orders, they are also barred from making them public.
“I hope this case will go to court,” said Pahva, founder of MediaNama. “Because I think the government is likely to lose the case in a rational way.”