Twitter withholds some accounts within India, vows to advocate free expression

Twitter on Wednesday said it has not blocked handles of civil society activists, politicians, and journalists as “it would violate their fundamental right to free expression” guaranteed under the Indian law even as it has withheld some of the accounts that the government has flagged for blocking “within India only”.

The micro-blogging site vowed to continue advocating for the right to free expression of its users. It added it is “actively exploring options under Indian law — both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted”.

The electronics and information technology ministry issued a notice to Twitter again last week asking it to block over 250 accounts and posts. Twitter had restored access to these accounts and posts after closing them briefly for using a controversial hashtag in connection with the ongoing farmers’ protest, officials said.

The notice said that Twitter, by unblocking the accounts and posts, was in violation of Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act that can result in seven years’ imprisonment.

Twitter had on February 1 blocked access in India to accounts associated with the farmers’ protest on the government’s demand. Many of the blocked accounts used a hashtag referring to an alleged “genocide”. Among the handles temporarily withdrawn were those of Kisan Ekta Morcha. Following criticism over the move, Twitter unblocked them hours later.

“Incitement to Genocide is Not Freedom of Speech; It is Threat to Law & Order,” the government’s notice said.

Twitter, in its latest response, has said it has taken steps to reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content that included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended search terms.

Twitter has informed the ministry of its enforcement action. It said it has taken a range of enforcement actions against over 500 accounts. They include permanent suspension in certain cases for violation of Twitter rules.

There was no immediate response from the government.

(With PTI inputs)

By Hindustan Times

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