Twitter has been issued a non-compliance notice by the Indian government for failing to block accounts used to spread misinformation and provoke violence.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered Twitter to block over 1,000 Twitter accounts after political protestors stormed Delhi’s Red Fort and clashed with police on January 26, India’s Republic Day.
Twitter only partially complied with the request, temporarily blocking some of the accounts that the Indian government said were used to trend hashtags designed to incite violence. One hashtag determined by the government to be inflammatory was #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide.
Under Section 69A of India’s Information Technology Act, failure to meet the government’s account-blocking requests could see Twitter employees in India hit with fines and sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
India’s minister for electronics and information technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said yesterday in Parliament that action would be taken against social media companies whose services are exploited to spread fake news and incite violence.
“We have now flagged Twitter,” Prasad told Parliament. “Our department has engaged with Twitter. That’s why I didn’t want to comment on this issue outside and chose the House to raise these questions.
“What is the matter that when there is violence in US Capitol Hill, social media platforms stand by police investigation but when Red Fort is breached, the same platforms go against the Indian government? Red Fort is the symbol of our pride. We won’t allow these double standards.”
Following the violent breach of the US Capitol building on January 6, Twitter took swift action to suspend more than 70,000 user accounts
A statement issued by India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said that while Twitter was free to formulate its own rules and guidelines, Indian laws, which are enacted by the Parliament of India, must be followed irrespective of Twitter’s own rules.
In a statement issued yesterday, Twitter said: “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.”