New Delhi: Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey has said that the Indian government had threatened to shut down the platform and conduct raids at its employees’ homes in the country unless it accepted the requests for censorship.
Jack Dorsey, in an interview YouTube news show Breaking Points, said Twitter had received “many requests” from the Indian government to block accounts covering farmers’ protests and those critical of the government.
“It manifested in ways such as: ‘We will shut Twitter down in India’, which is a very large market for us; ‘we will raid the homes of your employees’, which they did; and this is India, a democratic country,” Dorsey said.
At the height of the farmers’ protest in the country in 2021, the Indian government had asked Twitter to take down nearly 1,200 accounts for alleged “Khalistan” links. Before that, it had asked the platform to take down more than 250 accounts.
During the protests, the Indian government sought an “emergency blocking” of the “provocative” Twitter hashtag “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide” and dozens of accounts.
Twitter initially complied but later restored most of the accounts, citing “insufficient justification” to continue the suspensions.
Later, the Indian police also visited a Twitter office as part of another inquiry linked to tagging of some ruling party posts as manipulated. At that time, Twitter had said that it was worried about staff safety.
Dorsey said many requests for the content takedown during the farmer protests were “around particular journalists that were critical of the government”.
Twitter’s new CEO Elon Musk also has a similar view of India’s social media regulations, having previously called them “strict”. In April this year, Musk had said that he would rather comply with the government’s blocking orders than risk sending Twitter employees to jail.
There has been a significant surge in legal demands being made by India — from various courts and the government — to remove content from Twitter between 2014 and 2020, an analysis of Twitter’s global transparency reports by The Indian Express had earlier shown.
In the first six months of 2021, Twitter was asked by various Indian courts and the government to block a little more than 4,900 tweets.
In July 2022, Twitter initiated legal action against some of the government missives ordering it to take down certain content posted on the microblogging site. Alleging disproportionate use of power by officials, the social media company moved the Karnataka High Court against the Ministry’s content-blocking orders issued under Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Since Modi took office in 2014, India has slid from 140th in World Press Freedom Index to 161 this year, out of 180 countries, its lowest ranking ever.
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