Laidback compliance to the Centre’s request could land Twitter in a legal tangle.
The Indian government has asked the microblogging site to delete around 1,400 handles for allegedly “instigating protests against the farm bills”, and if it fails to comply speedily may face legal action, a senior government official told The Economic Times.
Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.
The source added, “The Centre wants to give the United States-based company some more time as it does not want to be seen as high-handed or vindictive.”
If it does seek legal recourse, the Centre could lodge an FIR against Twitter under Section 69A (3) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which also allows the Centre to suspend the platform “in national interest or for public order.” The section was also used to ban over 200 Chinese apps last year.
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The consideration comes after Twitter “was the only exception” and lagged on taking action based on requests from the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) while YouTube and Facebook “proactively complied,” officials told the paper.
One official questioned Twitter’s right to “decide what free speech is,” adding: “There is a serious law and order situation in the country, and with the revelation of the toolkit, it is clear that there is involvement of international syndicates and countries like Pakistan to fuel the tension.”
A representative for Twitter told the paper it “continues to engage with the government from a position of respect and has reached out to Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for a formal meeting or dialogue.”
The company did not confirm if it has acted on the requests yet.
Meanwhile, digital stakeholders are closely watching to see how this unfolds as the case “could emerge as a global test,” the report noted.
The source quoted earlier drew parallels with Australia’s action against Google, stating: “we want to raise an international debate on whether democratically elected governments have a say in this or will Big Tech companies, in the name of freedom of expression, decide what the national discourse will be.”
A spokesperson for Twitter confirmed that a non-compliance notice was received and stated: “We review every report we receive from the government as expeditiously as possible and take appropriate action regarding such reports while making sure we hold firm to our fundamental values and commitment to protecting the public conversation … We strongly believe the open and free exchange of information has a positive global impact, and that the tweets must continue to flow.”Follow our full coverage on the Farmers' Protest here