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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Tussle between Twitter and Government: Explained

A source from the Ministry of Electronics and IT, as covered by The Hindu, which sent the notice to U.S HQ firm stated that Twitter was midway and was obliged to follow the government orders.

Government issues notice to Twitter in order to fulfill the removal of tweets related to ‘farmer genocide,’ which started the tussle between twitter and the government. Alleged by the Centre that such material was designed to spread misinformation which will inflame passions and hatred, and penal action will be taken if they refuse to do so.

Twitter had blocked more than 250 accounts earlier and on Tuesday evening, it resorted those accounts, after hours due to “legal demand.” The platform opposed this order, stating that these accounts weren’t violating any Twitter policy and didn’t abide by the government’s order.

A source from the Ministry of Electronics and IT, as covered by The Hindu, which sent the notice to the U.S HQ firm stated that Twitter was midway and was obliged to follow the government orders.

Looking into the accounts that were blocked:

On receiving “legal demands” by the government, Twitter had blocked several accounts which included news websites, actors, political figures, workers, and bloggers that continued posting messages and retweets in support of the farmer’s protest.

As covered by The Hindu, a source stated that most of those accounts were restored back to operation. Also, Twitter contested the issued order because the accounts were not in violation of any twitter policies.

Email response by a Twitter spokesperson read: “Many countries have laws that may apply to tweets or Twitter content. In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we received a properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time. Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notice policy for withheld content. Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify the affected account holders.” This was mentioned that it would happen only if they are not prohibited from doing so by receiving a court order.

Reactions to the tweets by western celebrities:

“Neither accurate nor responsible,” was India’s response to the comments from the Western Celebrities who tweeted and made posts in support of the farmers’ protests.

Here again, an official statement was issued right after the series of social media posts by the popular singer Rihanna, 18 y/o environmental activists Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris who is the niece of the US. VP Kamala Harris, as a response to them.

The Ministry of External Affairs stated in a detailed response: “Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,”

This response came after Rihanna’s tweet which said: “Why aren’t we talking about this?”

Looking at Meena Harris’s tweet: “It’s no coincidence that the world’s oldest democracy was attacked not even a month ago, and as we speak, the most populous democracy is under assault. This is related. We all should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters.”

What were the Supreme Court judgments?

More than half a dozen Supreme Court judgments were quoted in the notice by the Centre, including the constitution benches, identifying what is public order and what are the authority’s rights.

On Republic Day, The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) highlighted: “the prevailing situation” that lead to a “major public order issue.” Quoting the source from MeitY further: “The statutory authorities are doing everything possible to ensure that no adverse public order situation takes place and no cognizable offenses are committed. In light of these developments and as a part of due process and as per the settled practice, an order was passed.”

Now this passed order was under section 69A and according to the applicable rule, only the satisfaction of the secretary, MeitY, and the committee over the subject is relevant whereas the judgment on the arbitrator has no significance. Further mentioned in the notice that “there is no onus of proof on MeitY and Twitter being an intermediary cannot assume the role of a Court in contravention of the statutory rules applicable.”

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