Twitter Inc. said Wednesday that it is re-blocking some accounts the Indian government has asked it to take down after the Indian government threatened legal action. Twitter had blocked hundreds of Twitter handles last week at the request of the Central government, but then reversed its decision. Twitter said it had now “withheld a portion of the accounts” identified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) within India. Twitter said it had informed MeitY of its enforcement actions but was also “actively exploring options under Indian law”.
The social-media company said in its blog that the Twitter handles will only be blocked within India and won’t include the handles of journalists, media entities, activists and politicians. “Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians,” the company said.
The accounts that the Centre has targeted were connected to tweets that the government said were inflammatory. Twitter had initially blocked more than 250 accounts following a government request after Indian officials said the tweets could incite violence. The officials singled out the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmersGenocide, which some Twitter users had been using to bring attention to the government’s crackdown on protesters.
Twitter said that over 500 accounts were removed, out of the 1,178 Twitter accounts, flagged by the government as belonging to Khalistan sympathizers or being backed by Pakistan. “Separately, today, we have withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under our Country Withheld Content policy within India only. These accounts continue to be available outside of India” the social media platform said.
The Indian government had considered stricter penal action against the company and its employees, including a potential seven-year jail sentence. The government had also taken particular note of Twitter CEO and cofounder Jack Dorsey ‘liking’ tweets by celebrities that tweeted against the farm laws and supported the farmer protests.
Besides Twitter, the government’s crackdown also included songs and videos on YouTube. The video streaming giant removed several videos depicting songs and other images related to the protests, which have engulfed Delhi. This included videos such as singer Kanwar Grewal’s Ailaan, which has over 60 Lakh views on YouTube, as well as Himmat Sandhu’s Asi vaddange, which has over 13 Mn views on YouTube.
Last week, the company’s public policy director for India and South Asia, Mahima Kaul, had resigned, citing “personal reasons”.