Twitter gives in, blocks 97% accounts flagged by Centre
BusinessToday.In February 12, 2021
After initial reluctance, signs of a truce are visible in the spat between Twitter and the government as the former has taken down 97 per cent of handles flagged by the IT ministry. In its two orders, the Centre had demanded Twitter to block accounts of 1,435 users -- 257 in the first order and 1,178 in second -- for spreading inflammatory hashtags like "farmers genocide" and supporting pro-Pakistan and pro-Khalistan agendas.
The action from the global micro-blogging platform came after the government took serious exception to Twitter's non-compliance of its notices, and threatened to take penal action against its top officials.
Of total 1,435 handles flagged by the ministry to be removed, Twitter has taken action against 1,398 of them, The Times of India reported citing sources. Twitter is yet to come out with any statement on this. The breakthrough came after the meeting between IT secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney and Twitter executives Monique Meche and Jim Baker on Wednesday evening.
But initially, Twitter had released a report on the action taken on the government's orders about the ban on accounts on Wednesday, saying it reduced visibility of tweets spreading "harmful content" and permanently suspended over 500 accounts violating its rules. Separately, it said it also withheld "a portion" of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under its 'Country Withheld Content' policy within India only.
Sawhney, however, said these actions were not at all enough and the Centre's orders were "non-negotiable". 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.
While speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, Union IT and communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that all social media platforms are welcomed to work in India but they will have to adhere to Indian laws. "Whether it's Twitter, FB, LinkedIn or WhatsApp, they are welcome to work in India, have crores of followers, but they will have to adhere to the Indian Constitution and laws," he said.