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Supreme Court issues notice to Twitter, Union Government on a petition seeking a mechanism to curb hate speech and fake news

The petition sought a mechanism to check Twitter content and advertisements spreading hatred through fake news and instigative messages through bogus accounts in the name of eminent people and high dignitaries.

On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the union government and social media platform Twitter on a PIL seeking to curb hate speech and abusive content on the social media platform. According to the reports, the petition sought a mechanism to check Twitter’s content and advertisements spreading hatred using fake news and instigative messages through bogus accounts in the name of eminent people and high dignitaries.

The petition filed by BJP leader Vinit Goenka said that in the absence of a mechanism or any law to check online content, social media platforms such as Twitter are being used by some persons to “amplify and call out for activities that are against the spirit of the Union of India”.

“These fake Twitter handles and Facebook accounts use a real photo of constitutional authorities and eminent citizens and common people reply to the messages published from these accounts,” the plea said.

Hearing the petition, the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde issued a notice to both centre and the micro-blogging site seeking their response on the plea.

The SC notice comes amidst an ongoing tussle between the Indian government and Twitter that escalated after the social media giant refused to remove anti-India and Khalistani accounts that posted hate speech related to farmer protests.

Twitter refuses to remove hate speech content from its platform

A major controversy has erupted in the country after Twitter disrespected Indian laws by refusing to follow orders passed by an elected government asking them to ban anti-India and pro-Khalistani accounts that incited violence on the platform.

The Indian government had issued a new notice to social media giant Twitter directing it to block 1,400 accounts from Pakistan peddling Khalistani secessionism during the protests. The misuse of the social media platform for spreading anti-India propaganda, provocative content and misinformation had irked the Union government. The government said hat the said Twitter accounts have the potential to cause a threat to public order.

However, Twitter had shown its reluctance to comply with the central government’s notice under Section 69A of the IT Act. The social media site has banned only a handful of 1,400 handles, and Twitter said it would not be taking action against any media, journalists, activists, and politicians, citing free speech. Twitter also claimed that they did not believe that the actions they have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law. 

Twitter’s dubious standards had irked the government, who had to warn the tech-giant that its patience was wearing out over the company’s refusal to follow the rules under Section 69A of the IT Act. The Indian government has also thought of mulling action against Twitter officials for failing to comply with Indian laws and regulations and promoting hate speech on its platform.

After an ultimatum from the government, Twitter finally took action against handles and removed 97% of such accounts. However, certain left-wing accounts are still active on the platform.

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