A confrontation appears to be brewing between the Centre and Twitter, with the former firm that the latter has to block all ‘unwanted’ accounts and comply with the law of the land, and the micro blogging site taking shelter behind the freedom of expression argument.
“They (Twitter) have their own rules and guidelines, but they also know that India is a business friendly place and we are perfect users of technology and tools and they earn money from advertisements here. We are just asking them to be be respectful of sensitivities of our country and not to infringe on the legal provisions that govern life in this country,” a top official at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) told BusinessLine.
The discussions between MeitY officials and the top leadership of Twitter in the US were still going on at the time of going to press.
Click here to read: MeitY issues statement about meeting of Secretary IT with Twitter Inc. team
“We expect that any entity that operates in India must be respectful of the democratic nature of our polity… democracy, constitutional provisions, and laws that have been brought in place after thorough debates in Parliament,” he further said.
Senior MeitY officials said India will not allow indecenct posts by unverified handles and platforms, many of which are from across the border and from suspect and nefarious locations. “We do welcome criticism.. we take pride in that. But to use offensive handles in volatile situations, like the Lal Qila incident… we cannot tolerate that,” said another government official.
The officials said that Twitter ‘has to’ block all the accounts (257) and the tweets it had briefly jammed a day after a January 31 government order because they incite the general public, too.
‘Will engage with govt’
Twitter, meanwhile, in a blog post earlier in the day, said that it has informed MeitY of its enforcement actions.
“We will continue to maintain a dialogue with the Indian government and respectfully engage with them. We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve. We are exploring options under Indian law — both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted. We remain committed to safeguarding the health of the conversation occurring on Twitter, and strongly believe that the Tweets should flow,” it said in the blog post.
However, it said that some of the accounts are still available outside India. Twitter added that it had taken a range of enforcement actions, including permanent suspension in some case,s against more than 500 accounts.
According to Supreme Court advocate N S Nappinai, Founder of Cyber Saathi, it is open to both Twitter and the individuals whose accounts are to be blocked to contest the notice before Indian courts. Instead taking law into one’s own hands could lead to prosecution and also losing it’s safe harbour under Section 79 IT Act.
“If an intermediary (Twitter, in this instance) believes that these provisions have not been complied with its only remedy is to seek recourse from court. It cannot decide unilaterally to not comply with such an order” she said.