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Twitter sues Indian government over content removal orders

Twitter has moved Karnataka High Court against the Indian government’s alleged abuse of power and has asked an Indian court to overturn some government orders to remove content from its platform. 

The move follows the Indian government’s latest IT directives that allow it to ask social media platforms to take down posts that spread disinformation or are a threat to national security, among other reasons. According to ReutersTwitter has sued the Indian government’s content blocking orders falling under Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. 

The US-based social media platform received a letter from MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) last month requesting it to comply with the new directives by July 4; otherwise, the platform would lose its safe harbour status under the new rules. 

Twitter alleged that some of the orders issued by the government failed to inform the content creators, some of which were linked to political content shared by the official accounts of various political parties and that removing that would violate their free speech rights. 

Karnataka HC by Muhammad Mahdi Karim/ Augustus Binu | Wikimedia Commons
Twitter has moved Karnataka High Court, fighting against the government’s order | Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim/ Augustus Binu via Wikimedia Commons

This isn’t Twitter’s first rodeo against the Indian government, either. The platform has been vocal about the new rules being a threat to the freedom of expression. Its offices based in the Delhi-NCR region were raided by the Delhi Police last year to serve a notice regarding Twitter labelling a BJP politician’s tweets as manipulated media. 

Other than that, there has been friction between the two parties regarding other events, including the massive farmer’s protests in the country last year, during which the government asked Twitter to remove some 257 accounts. Twitter had disabled several accounts and removed tweets in compliance with the government’s orders.

Another point of friction has been the government’s handling of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Twitter restricted 52 tweets at the government’s request. The Indian government claimed these tweets were spreading misinformation, while most were simply critical of the government’s response to the pandemic.

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