The Indian Government has sent a notice to Twitter for violating Indian laws by unblocking the accounts and tweets that trended a controversial hashtag claiming that Prime Minister Modi was planning a ‘farmer genocide’ in the country.
Breaking: Government sends notice to Twitter for violating Indian law by unblocking accounts and posts regarding a controversial hashtag. Officials say non-compliance carries a penal sentence.— Deeksha Bhardwaj (@deekbhardwaj) February 3, 2021
The government has also threatened a 7 year jail term and fine.
Govt warns Twitter with 7-year jail term & fine to enforce compliance of Order directing blocking of accounts alleging "Farmer Genocide"#Meity Notice: On Jan 31, issued order blocking 257 URLs and 1 Hashtag for spreading misinformation, potentially causing imminent violence pic.twitter.com/YRkdLiTJmc— CNBC-TV18 (@CNBCTV18Live) February 3, 2021
The government stated that “Twitter Cannot Assume the Role of Court and Justify Non-Compliance.” According to Indian laws, “the intermediary is bound to comply with the order of the Designated Officer authorized by the Central Government, and in case of non-compliance, statutory consequences shall follow.”
The notice said that it was “astonishing” that Twitter was “commenting upon “significant issues relating to freedom of speech” relating to the power of the Central Government under section 69A of the Act and the constitutional desirability of the interim order dated 31.1.2021.”
“It may be noted that the impracticability or disproportionality of the said measure cannot be decided at the instance of twitter which is an intermediary bound by the orders of the Central Government,” the notice said.
The government notice also stated, “Having considered in totality, the contents of the interim order, the oral submissions of the advocate/representative of Twitter at the Committee meeting, and also the mail from Twitter expressing its disobedience of the legal blocking orders, the competent authority is satisfied that it is necessary and also expedient in the interest of public order and also for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to public order that Twitter, as an intermediary under section 2[w] of the act is once again directed to block for access by the public, the said Twitter handles and also the said hashtag with immediate effect.”
Around 250 tweets and accounts were withheld in India on the 1st of February after the controversial hashtag trended on the platform on the 30th of January. The accounts of The Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha, actor Sushant Singh were some of the most prominent to be withheld.
Sources told OpIndia that the decision was taken at the request of Ministry of Home Affairs and law enforcement agencies to prevent any escalation of law and order in view of the on-going farmer agitation. The accounts and tweets were ordered to be withheld after being perceived as incitement and a threat to public order.
However, within hours, the accounts were restored by Twitter. The social media giant said that it had held discussions with government officials and conveyed to them that spreading fake news that has the potential to unleash massive violence falls under the purview of freedom of speech. The Government of India has on Wednesday sent a notice to the platform for violating Indian laws.
The government has also warned Twitter of consequences for non-compliance of directions issued under section 69A of the IT Act.