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Indian government threatened Twitter and its employees: Dorsey

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Photo by IANS

Jack Dorsey has come out with a shocking revelation that the Indian government regularly issued content removal requestions against certain posts and accounts, often threatening the company with legal action in case of noncompliance. 

In an interview with Breaking Points, Dorsey revealed that Twitter was ordered to remove hundreds of accounts and reduce the visibility of certain hashtags in the country. Orders from the government would often threaten to shut down Twitter offices and raid the homes of employees as Twitter resisted government directives in order to protect free speech on its platform. 

A significant share of these content removal requests was directed at the farmers’ protests against newly announced laws at the time. Journalists critical of the government were also targeted. It’s notable that the government’s threats weren’t empty either as a team of police officers from an anti-terrorism squad visited two of Twitter’s offices based in the Delhi-NCR region in May 2021. 

Twitter at the time vehemently opposed the government’s interference in addition to the new IT rules announced at the time, compliance with which might “inhibit free, open public conversation”. The new rules, among other things, made it mandatory for tech firms operating in the country to nominate and disclose contact information for representatives that would be held responsible for regulatory compliance, a nodal point of reference as well as grievance redressal to manage any concerns otherwise. A year later, Twitter ended up suing the Indian government over content removal orders in July 2022. 

In response to Dorsey’s claims, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the deputy minister for IT under the Modi government lashed out, calling the former’s claims an “outright lie” and an attempt to “brush out that very dubious period of Twitter’s history”.

Chandrasekhar’s claims are that no one was sent to jail and Twitter was never banned in India, despite what Dorsey might say and that Twitter under its former CEO had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law. While Chandrasekhar didn’t name anyone in his tweet, he did point out that Twitter has been in compliance with the new rules since July 2022, shortly after Musk bought out the company in a controversial $44 billion deal

Dorsey’s comment does much to highlight one of the biggest problems faced by big tech companies in India where the government regularly butts in and asks the platform to remove what it perceives as fake or anti-national content. Google, Facebook and Twitter have all faced criticism in this regard for not quickly complying with the new IT rules. 

That said, it’s rare for tech companies operating in the country to openly criticise the government. Twitter isn’t the only company to take the Indian government to court over the new IT rules either with Whatsapp filing a similar lawsuit claiming that the new rules would compromise end-to-end encryption currently used in the app. 

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: [email protected].