Twitter on February 1 withheld multiple accounts following a government order. (Source: Reuters)
Twitter on February 8 said it was cooperating with the Centre which had earlier warned the microblogging site of penal action for not taking down accounts and tweets which posed threat to law and order in the country.
In the latest statement shared with Moneycontrol, the social media giant said it was concerned about the safety of its employees and had reached out to Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for a formal dialogue.
“Safety of our employees is a top priority for us at Twitter. We continue to be engaged with the Government of India from a position of respect and have reached out to the Honourable Minister, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, for a formal dialogue. An acknowledgement to the receipt of the non-compliance notice has also been formally communicated,” a Twitter spokesperson said in the statement.
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This comes after the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) sent a fresh directive to Twitter asking the company to remove 1,178 handles flagged by security agencies as accounts of Khalistani sympathisers or those backed by Pakistan.
The Centre had on February 3 sent a non-compliance notice to Twitter for reinstating accounts and Tweets supporting the farmers’ protest despite a directive by the ministry to block them for posing a threat to public order.
The notice warned the social media platform of penal action for "non-compliance of directions issued under section 69-A of the IT Act”. It said that it "needs to be mentioned that Section 69-A(3) provides for specific penal consequences in case of non-compliance of the directions issued under section 69A of the Act."
Section 69 A(3) of the IT Act says, "the intermediary who fails to comply with the direction issued under sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine."
The February 8 statement said "Twitter believes that the open and free exchange of information has a positive global impact, and that the Tweets must continue to flow."
“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. An update is shared through our established channels of communication with the government,” the statement read .
Twitter on February 1 “withheld” multiple accounts on its social media platform, including many tweets with #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide linked with the ongoing farmers’ protest at Delhi borders against the new contentious central farm laws. The handles were reinstated within hours.
Read: After PM Modi's invite, farmer leaders say ready for talks, ask govt to choose date
The crackdown was carried out based on orders issued by the Centre, asking Twitter to withhold the hashtag and as many as 257 URLs, including nearly 100 Twitter accounts. The government order said the hashtag and the account were spreading misinformation about farmers' protests and had the potential to lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country.
Among the accounts withheld, and later reinstated, on February 1, included farmers’ collective Kisan Ekta Morcha and farmers’ union BKU Ekta Urgahan both having followers in thousands. Also, several other individuals and organisational accounts, including one of a monthly magazine, were also withheld. Among the individuals whose accounts have been withheld include that of actor Sushant Singh, and other activists.
The Delhi Police is probing the Republic Day violence wherein it has lodged multiple FIRs and booked, among others, several farmer leaders leading the protests at the national capital's borders for two months now.
Enacted in September 2020, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector. But, thousands of protesting farmers, primarily from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at several Delhi border points for over two months, demanding the repeal of the laws, and a legal guarantee on minimum support prices (MSP) for their crops.