The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has ordered Twitter to ban over 1,000 accounts, allegedly linked to the ongoing farmer protests.
The move comes days after MeitY sent out a similar list to the micro-blogging site, asking it to block 250 accounts and tweets that allegedly used the hashtag ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide. While the accounts were temporarily suspended on February 1, Twitter restored most of them later in the day. Following the restoration, MeitY reportedly issued a notice to the social media platform, threatening penal action for non-compliance with internet intermediary laws.
The takedown requests by the government invoke section 69A of the Information Technology Act, which requires internet intermediaries to block access by public to specific posts or information that threatens sovereignty and integrity of the country or defence of India or incites cognizable offence.
Reports citing government sources peg the number of the accounts on the list issued on February 4 to be at 1,117. Twitter declined to comment on the exact number and its next course of action.
In response to specific TechCircle queries, a Twitter spokesperson said, “Twitter is guided by principles of transparency and empowering the public conversation. If we receive a valid legal request about potentially illegal content on Twitter, we review it under both the Twitter rules and local law.”
The statement added, “If the content violates Twitter’s rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter rules, we may withhold access to the content in the location only. In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they’re aware we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account. Our goal is to respect local law while protecting our foundational principles of free expression.”
Additionally, Mahima Kaul has resigned as the public policy director for Twitter India and South Asia. The social media platform claimed that her move was unrelated to the face-off with the Indian government.
“At the start of this year, Mahima Kaul decided to step down from her role as Twitter public policy director for India and South Asia to take a well-deserved break. It’s a loss for all of us at Twitter, but after more than five years in the role, we respect her desire to focus on the most important people and relationships in her personal life,” a statement issued by Monique Meche, vice president of public policy at Twitter, said. She added that Kaul will continue in her role till March, 2021.