“We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression,” says micro-blogging platform
Twitter on Wednesday said it had withheld some accounts identified in the blocking orders given by the government. However, no action has been taken against accounts of news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians; the withheld accounts continue to be available outside India.
In a blog post, the micro-blogging platform said it took a range of enforcement measures, including permanent suspension in certain cases, against more than 500 accounts escalated across all Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) orders for clear violations of Twitter rules.
“We took steps to reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended search terms,” it added
Twitter said it had withheld some of the accounts because it believed that the action it had been directed to take was consistent with Indian law. The platform added that in keeping with its principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, it had not taken any action on accounts of news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians. “To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law. We informed MeitY of our enforcement actions today, February 10, 2021.”
The U.S.-headquartered firm said that from January 26, 2021, its global team provided 24/7 coverage and took enforcement action judiciously and impartially on content, trends, tweets and accounts that were in violation of its rules, “…our global policy framework that governs every Tweet on the service”.
Twitter, the blog post added, took action against hundreds of accounts that violated its rules, particularly inciting violence, abuse, wishes of harm and threats that could trigger the risk of offline harm, prevented certain terms from appearing in the trends section, suspended more than 500 accounts that were engaging in clear examples of platform manipulation and spam, tackled misinformation based on the highest potential for real-world harm and prioritised labelling of tweets that were in violation of its media policy.
“Separate to our enforcement under the Twitter rules, over the course of the last 10 days, Twitter has been served with several separate blocking orders by the MeitY, Government of India, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act,” it said, adding that of these, two were emergency blocking orders that it temporarily complied with but subsequently restored access to the content in a manner that it believed was consistent with Indian law.
“After we communicated this to MeitY, we were served with a non-compliance notice. To set the record straight, here is a list of actions we have taken as a result of these blocking orders: We took steps to reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended search terms,” it said, while also detailing steps taken, including suspension of some accounts and withholding some of the accounts.
“We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve and are actively exploring options under Indian law — both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted. We remain committed to safeguarding the health of the conversation occurring on Twitter, and strongly believe that the tweets should flow,” the company said.