A day after Twitter said it is seeking formal dialogue with the Information Technology Minister after the government ordered it to take down 1,178 accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation around farmers' protests, sources have told Republic Media Network that Ravi Shankar Prasad has turned down the social media platform's request.
Sources said that the Indian government is very clear on its stand that hate content should not be allowed and that Twitter needs to set its own house in order first.
Meanwhile, under pressure from the Centre, Twitter on Wednesday said it had now "withheld a portion of the accounts" identified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) within India. In a blog post, it said that since January 26, the company took enforcement action judiciously and impartially on content, Trends, Tweets, and accounts that were in violation of the Twitter Rules.
Transparency is the foundation for promoting healthy public conversation.— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) February 10, 2021
Following the reports of violence in recent weeks, we're sharing a granular update on our proactive efforts to enforce our rules and defend our principles in India: https://t.co/ry557Nj94U
The blog post said that over the course of the last 10 days, "Twitter has been served with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act."
"Out of these, two were emergency blocking orders that we temporarily complied with but subsequently restored access to the content in a manner that we believe was consistent with Indian law. After we communicated this to MeitY, we were served with a non-compliance notice," Twitter said.
Here is a list of actions Twitter has taken as a result of these blocking orders:
The government, on February 4, had ordered Twitter to block 1,178 accounts with links to Pakistan and Khalistan supporters that were spreading misinformation and provocative content on farmers' protest. Previously, too, the government had ordered Twitter to take down handles and hashtags that suggested a farmer genocide was being planned, saying such misinformation and inflammatory content will incite passion, and impact public order.
It has also warned Twitter of penal action in case of failure to comply with its directive and had cited sections that provide for fine and jail for up to 7 years. Notably, Twitter's Public Policy Director for India and South Asia Mahima Kaul has quit, fuelling speculations about her departure amid the ongoing situation. However, the company has clarified that this was not the case.