As the row over Twitter's non-compliance of the government's notice intensifies, Twitter executives face the possibility of arrest. Top executives of Twitter are now facing arrest under Section 69A of the IT Act if the Centre's demand of banning some handles spreading inflammatory "farmer genocide" hashtags and those supporting pro-Pakistan and pro-Khalistan agendas, are not fulfilled. The Centre has already made it clear that its demand on such accounts is "non-negotiable".
As the Centre's patience on Twitter non-compliance of its orders wears out, the micro-blogging site might knock the court's door in its defence of "right of free expression". After releasing a report on the action taken on the government's orders , Twitter executives Monique Meche and Jim Baker met Union IT secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney later in the evening.
Sawhney made it clear that lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity. "They must be obeyed immediately. If they are executed days later, it becomes meaningless," said a government statement after the meeting.
The IT secretary has also expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about how Twitter has "unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay" complied with the substantial parts of the order. He said in India, its Constitution and laws are supreme. "It is expected that responsible entities not only reaffirm but remain committed to compliance to the law of land," Twitter executives were told.
Secretary also reminded Twitter about the action taken by Twitter during the Capitol Hill episode in the USA and compared that with the disturbance in Red Fort in India and its aftermath.
Expressing dissatisfaction over Twitter's differential treatment in the two incidents, he said Twitter sided not with 'freedom of expression' but rather with those who seek to abuse such freedom and provoke disturbance to public order.
Earlier in the day, Twitter said in its report that after the government orders, it reduced visibility of tweets spreading "harmful content" and permanently suspended over 500 accounts violating its rules. Separately, the company also withheld "a portion" of the accounts identified in the orders under its 'Country Withheld Content' policy.
Twitter said it has not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians as it violated "speech and freedom of expression" under the Indian law.
The government didn't take kindly to Twitter releasing a blogpost and turned down its request for a meeting with IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. After initially postponing the meeting with the IT secretary, the meeting ultimately happened later in the day.
Twitter officials were conveyed that they must follow the Centre's "immediately".
Some of the accounts that the Centre asked Twitter to ban included Caravan magazine (@thecaravanindia), CPI(M) leader Mohammad Salim, activist Hansraj Meena, Kisan Ekta Morcha and BKU Ekta Urgahan, reported The Times of India. So far, Twitter is said to have blocked 126 accounts of the first list of 257 handles, while it has taken action against 583 accounts from the Centre's second list comprising 1,178 handles.
But the Centre is not happy. The secretary conveyed to Twitter leadership that how Twitter officially allows "fake, unverified, anonymous and automated bot accounts to be operated on its platform", raises doubts about its commitment to transparency and healthy conversation on this platform.
Meanwhile, Twitter executives have affirmed their commitment towards following Indian laws and rules. They have also requested for better engagement between the Centre and Twitter's global team.
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