Twitter didn’t present particulars on the contents of the discover, and the Indian authorities didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark.
The social media firm mentioned it had taken some motion towards greater than 500 accounts that have been flagged by the federal government’s orders. Twitter mentioned they have been in “clear violation of its guidelines.” It additionally made a number of different accounts solely seen exterior India and restricted the visibility of sure hashtags containing dangerous content material.
However Twitter additionally drew a line within the sand.
“As a result of we don’t imagine that the actions now we have been directed to take are in keeping with Indian legislation, and, consistent with our rules of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, now we have not taken any motion on accounts that consist of reports media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians,” the corporate mentioned. “We are going to proceed to keep up dialogue with the Indian authorities and respectfully have interaction with them.”
Who will blink first?
With greater than 700 million web customers, India is a large and necessary marketplace for international tech firms, albeit an more and more precarious one as the federal government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to tighten its grip on the web and social media.
“The shrinking house for civil society is being mirrored by censorship and anti-democratic regulatory strikes to censor customers from their rights to free speech,” mentioned Thenmozhi Soundararajan, govt director at advocacy group Equality Labs. “It’s time for the world to know how a lot is in danger proper now and for American firms like Twitter and Fb to behave earlier than it is too late.”
Twitter, for now, seems to be standing its floor towards the Indian authorities.
“We are going to proceed to advocate for the fitting of free expression on behalf of the individuals we serve. We’re exploring choices beneath Indian legislation — each for Twitter and for the accounts which were impacted,” the corporate mentioned Wednesday. “We stay dedicated to safeguarding the well being of the dialog occurring on Twitter, and strongly imagine that the tweets ought to movement.”
But when the federal government chooses to make good on its threats or additional escalate the scenario, Twitter is left with few good choices.
“There are two fundamental dangers: The primary is to Twitter’s staff in India, who could also be in danger if the corporate fails to adjust to calls for,” mentioned Jillian York, Director of Freedom of Expression on the Digital Frontier Basis.
“The second danger is that Twitter continues to refuse and will get blocked in India. Whereas this can be the fitting ethical consequence, it is clearly not one of the best consequence for the Indian individuals, a lot of whom depend on social media to get out key messages about what’s taking place on the bottom,” she added.
Threading the needle
Whereas Twitter and the Indian authorities stay at an deadlock with one another, each side should additionally take care of exterior scrutiny.
“Jack has proven prior to now that he can lead together with his values,” mentioned Soundararajan, referring to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
“The elemental downside is consistency … are they in a position to do the identical form of contextual evaluation that they did round QAnon posts, hydroxychloroquine posts and Trump’s incitement?” mentioned David Kaye, a legislation professor on the College of California, Irvine who beforehand served because the United Nations Particular Rapporteur on the promotion and safety of the fitting to freedom of opinion and expression. “India is a extremely nice instance of how onerous that’s.”
“I feel there’s nonetheless a danger for Modi particularly of showing to be unable to deal with kind of basic democratic rules like the fitting to peaceable meeting, the fitting to protest, the fitting to criticize and so forth,” Kaye mentioned. “I feel it’s going to be attention-grabbing to see if the Biden administration and different governments, who’re pleasant with India however are within the democratic camp, actually encourage the federal government to take a special method right here.”
— CNN’s Manveena Suri and Esha Mitra contributed to this report.