Twitter calls on Indian government to respect freedom of expression

Even before the coronavirus hit, the Modi government and the BJP had taken increasingly forceful measures to curb dissent in the country of 1.4 billion people.

In February, Twitter blocked more than 500 accounts and removed an unspecified number of others in India after the government accused those accounts of making inflammatory comments about Modi in connection with protests by angry farmers. Farmers have been camping on the outskirts of New Delhi for at least six months to protest against agricultural laws.

Twitter had before saying would not take any action against accounts that belonged to media organizations, journalists, activists or politicians, and that it did not believe that the orders to block those accounts were “consistent with Indian law”.

But on Thursday, the company acknowledged that it retained some unverified accounts in those categories from view in India, even though it believed the content was “legitimate free speech” under Indian and international law. The company said last week that was reopening its verification process to allow government officials, media organizations, journalists and activists to apply for a blue check mark, an online credibility marker, a process that has been on hold since 2017.

In April, the Modi government ordered Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to remove dozens of social media posts criticizing its handling of the pandemic. The order targeted approximately 100 positions of opposition politicians and included calls for Modi to resign.

India’s new internet rules apply to a wide variety of media, including digital news outlets, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, and social media platforms, giving the government broad powers to quickly remove articles, posts, or anything. other material. Specifically, it requires social media companies to designate India-based executives who could be held criminally liable for any wrongdoing, as well as to create systems to track and identify the “first author” of posts or messages that the government deems “offensive.” .

Under the regulations, announced in February, social media companies were given a deadline, which was Tuesday, to name executives who could be held liable.

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