This Article is From Feb 10, 2021

To Twitter's "Freedom of Speech" Blog, Government Posts On Koo: 10 Points

In a blog listing the action it has taken, also conveyed to the Centre today, Twitter noted that the values that underpin the Open Internet and free expression "are increasingly under threat around the world".

Twitter was asked by government to block 1,178 accounts.

New Delhi: Twitter, asked by the government to block 1,178 accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation on the farmer protests and provocative content, said today the orders were inconsistent with Indian law and that for some accounts, it would restrict access within India instead of an outright ban. In a blog listing the action it has taken, also conveyed to the Centre today, Twitter noted that the values that underpin the Open Internet and free expression "are increasingly under threat around the world". In an escalating confrontation, the government replied with a post on "koo" - pitched as Twitter's Indian rival. Calling the blog "unusual" after Twitter sought a meeting, the government said it would share its response soon. The same post was also tweeted later.

Here's your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:

  1. "We have withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under our Country Withheld Content policy within India only. These accounts continue to be available outside of India," Twitter said in a blog post.

  2. "Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law," it said.

  3. The government, in a post on "Koo" that is being promoted by union ministers, wrote: "Upon the request of Twitter seeking a meeting with the Govt., the Secretary IT was to engage with senior management of Twitter. In this light a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusual. Govt. will share its response soon."

  4. The government had asked Twitter to remove 1,178 listed handles that it said belonged to Pakistani and Khalistani users and were spreading misinformation on the farmer protests outside Delhi since November.

  5. "As per notices served, these Twitter handles are causing threat to public order in view of the ongoing farmers protests in some parts of India. Many of these accounts were also automated bots that were used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative contents on  farmers protests. But if Twitter still does not abide by the notice under section 69A of the IT Act, legal action would follow. As per law said section attracts seven year jail term," said government sources.

  6. The government said it had been trying to impress upon the social networking site that its concerns were genuine. "These accounts were shortlisted after security agencies flagged them. These accounts are of Khalistan sympathizers or are backed by Pakistan and they are operating from foreign territories, which has been shared with them," sources said.

  7. In its blog, Twitter said it existed to empower voices to be heard and continued to make improvements to its service so that everyone - no matter their views or perspective - felt safe participating in the public conversation. "We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve and are actively exploring options under Indian law - both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted. We remain committed to safeguarding the health of the conversation occurring on Twitter, and strongly believe that the Tweets should flow," it asserted.

  8. Twitter said it was served with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. "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."

  9. Defending its moves, Twitter said it took steps to reduce the visibility of hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended search terms. It also said a range of action, including permanent suspension, was taken against more than 500 accounts escalated across all government orders.

  10. In the row between the government and Twitter, several union ministers are setting up accounts in the rival made-in-India App "Koo" and asking people to follow them, ironically, with posts on Twitter. 

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