Modi Indian government threatens Twitter employees with prison


The Indian government has threatened to punish the Twitter staff with fines and prison terms of up to seven years Hundreds of accounts recovered The company ordered a ban. Most of the accounts criticized the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.

On Monday, Twitter complied with the government’s order and banned people in India from viewing more than 250 accounts of activists, political commentators, movie stars and investigative news magazine The Caravan. Most of the accounts criticized Modi, the nationalist Hindu prime minister, and his government. But the company restored the accounts about six hours later after a lawyer on Twitter met officials at the Information Technology Ministry, and said the tweets and accounts constituted freedom of expression and were worth publishing.

The government of India is different. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Information Technology sent a notice to Twitter, ordering it to block the accounts again. People who work for Twitter’s Indian arm also threatened legal consequences, which could include a fine and a term of up to seven years.

“This is a real problem,” said Nikhil Bahwa, editor of MediaNama, a technology policy website and internet activist. “I don’t understand why the government of India should wade into this area to try to censor tweets when they have much bigger problems to deal with.”

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for the Ministry of Information Technology did not respond to a request for comment.

This move puts the company in a difficult position. Banning accounts could mean once again accusing you of playing an active role in the ongoing crackdown on dissent in India, as anti-government protests sour the nation. But leaving the accounts on the platform means risking a political and legal confrontation in a large market.

In the notice sent on Tuesday, the government said the stories were “spreading misinformation about the protests” and were likely to lead to imminent violence affecting the state of public order in the country. See BuzzFeed News a copy of the notice.

The confrontation comes days after thousands of Indian farmers, who have been protesting for months against the agrarian reform that they say would harm their entry, broke through police checkpoints and stormed the Red Fort, a Mughal monument, in New Delhi on January 26. , Republic Day of India. At least one protestor It said Die. Delhi Police Refusal Their involvement in the accident.

In the notice, the government claimed that the accounts used a hashtag “showing that it incites people to commit identifiable crimes with regard to public order and state security.”

Although the caravan did not use this hashtag, the government claimed that “news and press accounts” spread misinformation, causing “people to incite” and create a “state of public order.”

A caravan spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that her journalism was fair and professional. The magazine’s executive editor, Vinod K. Jose, told BuzzFeed News: “We don’t understand why the Indian government is suddenly finding that journalists should not speak on all sides of the issue.”

India’s laws on Twitter prohibit sharing the legal order he received on Monday, but according to Tuesday’s notice from the government, the company responded. That document claims that Twitter did not block the accounts until 24 hours after receiving the first order, and did so just minutes before the Twitter attorney met with government officials on Tuesday.

The notice stated: “It is clear that the offensive tweets / hashtags remained in the public domain and must have been tweet and re-tweet several times at the expense of the public order, its cost and the risk of incitement to commit crimes.

According to the notice, Twitter also sent a response to the government after it met with officials who refused to “comply and comply” with the government order. The notice states that under Indian law, Twitter is obligated to comply.

The government also opposed Twitter’s argument on “freedom of expression,” saying the company had “no constitutional or legal basis or any legal basis whatsoever” to interpret what constituted freedom of expression under Indian laws.

Twitter also argued that there was “insufficient justification” to block entire accounts and said the government should have ordered the blocking of individual Tweets. In response, the government notice stated that it was not a place for Twitter to ask for justifications from the government.

At the heart of the legal system is Section 69A, an article in IT laws in India that allows the federal government to require platforms such as Twitter to withhold “any information that is created, sent, received, stored, or hosted in any computer resource that“ could disrupt ”the public’s arrangement. ” Platforms like Twitter are not only required to comply with these orders, but they are also prohibited from issuing the orders themselves.

“I hope this case goes to court, because I think it makes sense for the government to lose the case,” said Pahua, founder of MediaNama.

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