January 28, 2023

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India: Twitter sues Narendra Modi government over content ban orders

India: Twitter sues Narendra Modi government over content ban orders
The social media company owns a profile harsh The time I’ve been in India since last year, where I’ve spent months in a very dangerous standoff with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over freedom of expression.
At one point, the company was even the target of a few police investigations. Twitter (TWTR) He described it as “intimidation tactics” and said she was “concerned” for the safety of its employees in the state. but to Free speech activists disappointedShe chose not to take legal action against the government.

Until now.

The San Francisco-based company filed a petition with the Supreme Court in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka, on Tuesday according to a list reviewed online by CNN Business.

Twitter declined to comment on the case.

But a source familiar with the file said the company decided to appeal some of the government’s orders because it “shows an excessive and disproportionate use of powers”.

In the past, authorities have asked Twitter to remove posts Criticizes the Modi governmentincluding its handling of the country’s brutal second wave of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.

“Authorities target people for content posted online, and regularly intimidate web platforms and social media services to comply with censorship,” said Raman Jiet Singh Cheema, senior international advisor and Asia Pacific policy director at digital rights group Access Now.

Cheema and other free speech advocates accused the government of trying to censor journalists, protest groups, and opponents with blocking orders that are rarely made public.

“Today, Twitter is standing up for the population and doing what should be the government’s job: protecting our rights,” he added.

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The source said India’s technology ministry threatened Twitter last month with “serious consequences”, including initiating criminal proceedings against its executives, if the company failed to comply with agency orders to remove some of the tweets and ban accounts.

While the company blocked access to Content in India at the moment, it is seeking judicial review of some of the orders. company The source believes that they are violating the country’s technology laws and threatening freedom of expression.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology did not respond to a request for comment. But the young Indian Minister of Information Technology Rajiv Chandrasekhar said in a tweet On Tuesday that foreign Internet platforms ‘has [a] Right to Trial and Judicial Review”, in India, without mentioning Twitter.

He added that all platforms operating in the country “have [an] An unequivocal commitment to comply with our laws and rules.”

face high risk

The lawsuit brought by Twitter is the latest dispute in an increasingly contentious relationship between tech companies in Silicon Valley and one of its largest markets. India’s ruling party has intensified its crackdown on social media and messaging apps since last year.

US tech companies repeatedly expressed concerns last year that the country’s tech rules could erode privacy, lead to mass surveillance and harm business in the world’s fastest-growing digital market. India says it is trying Preserving national security.

the rules, issued in February 2021, includes demands that tech companies set up special compliance officers in India. There are also requirements that the Services remove some content, including posts that display “full or partial nudity”.
In addition, tech platforms will have to track the “first originator” of messages if the authorities request it. This condition forced WhatsApp – owned, like Facebook (FB), by Meta – to file a legal complaint against the government in May of last year. WhatsApp said the request breaks “complete end-to-end encryption” and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy.

A company spokesperson told CNN Business on Wednesday that the case is pending.

Twitter previously Engage with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology At the beginning of last year due to accounts that the agency wanted to remove during a series of farmers protests. Twitter complied with some requests but refused to take action against the accounts of journalists, activists or politicians.

Twitter also expressed concerns about IT rules last year, and said it plans to “call for changes to the elements of these regulations that prevent open and free public conversation.”

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In its lawsuit filed this week, Twitter did not challenge India’s technology law, but said the government’s blocking orders were “disproportionate in several cases,” according to the source.

Free speech activists in India welcomed the move on Tuesday. Many of them said last year that they felt it let down Through Twitter’s inability to take a firm stand against the government.

However, some feel the company could have gone further.

“They have defied the Indian government’s orders in these specific cases, rather than challenging the Indian government’s lack of accountability afforded by the IT Act,” said Nikhil Bhawa, founder of Delhi-based technology website MediaNama.

“Twitter has had the opportunity to do more, and they have failed to try to make a significant change,” he added.

– Swati Gupta and Isha Mitra contributed to this report.