Twitter moves court over content blocking orders; Centre says all platforms must follow local laws

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NEW DELHI: Twitter on Tuesday asked a court in India to overturn some government orders to remove content from the social media platform, a source familiar with the matter said, in a legal challenge which alleges abuse of power by officials.
The US company’s attempt to get a judicial review of the orders is part of a growing confrontation with New Delhi.
Twitter has been asked by authorities in India over the past year to act on content including posts alleged to have spread misinformation about protests by farmers and over tweets critical of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Responding to Twitter’s move to seek judicial review against India’s order, the government said that all social media firms are bound to comply with laws of the country and it will make them accountable for its content.
“Social media accountability has become a valid question globally. It’s important to hold it accountable, which will first start with self-regulation, then industry regulation, followed by government regulation…” said Vaishnaw.

He added that internet on mobile phones and social media platforms has brought powerful and transformative changes, but it must come with the realisation of responsibilities.
The minister further emphasised that social media and the digital world needs to be made more accountable.
Regarding Twitter pursuing legal review of Indian orders, Vaishnaw said: “Be it any company, in any sector, they should abide the laws of India. This is the responsibility of everyone to abide by the laws passed by the Parliament.”
In a tweet, minister of state (MoS) for electronics and information technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said: “All foreign intermediaries and platforms have a right to approach the court and judicial review in India. But, they also have an unambiguous obligation to comply with out laws.”

The government has previously said that big social media firms, including Twitter, have not complied with removal requests, despite their legal standing.
Late last month, Twitter was warned by the IT ministry of criminal proceedings if it did not comply with some orders. Twitter complied this week, the source said, so as not to lose liability exemptions available as a host of content.
In a filing with the top court in Karnataka, Twitter argued that some removal orders fell short of the procedural requirements of India’s IT Act, the source said, without specifying which ones it wanted reviewed.
The IT Act allows the government to block public access to content in the interest of national security, among other reasons.
Twitter, which market research firms say has nearly 24 million users in India, also argues in its filing that some of the orders failed to give notice to authors of the content.

It says that some were related to political content posted by official handles of political parties, the blocking of which amount to violation of freedom of speech, the source added.
Tensions between Twitter and the government flared early last year when the former declined to fully comply with an order to take down accounts and posts which New Delhi alleged were spreading misinformation about anti-government protests by farmers.
The company has also been subject to police investigations in India and last year many government ministers moved to domestically developed platform Koo, accusing Twitter of non-compliance with local laws.
Twitter has also faced a backlash in India for blocking accounts of influential individuals, including politicians, citing violations of its policies.
India, which industry transparency reports show has among the highest government requests for content takedowns, is considering some amendments to its new IT rules, including the introduction of a government-run appeals panel with the power to reverse the content moderation decisions of social media firms.
New Delhi has said such measures were needed because the companies had violated constitutional rights.

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