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World

Twitter expresses concern for safety of staff in India, after disagreement with Govt on 'objectionable' accounts

  • Twitter has expressed concern for the safety of its personnel in India, after the company's refusal to comply with a demand from the Indian government to remove accounts connected to the escalating farmers protests.
  • Last week, the Indian government threatened Twitter employees in India with fines and up to seven years’ jail time if the company did not comply with their demands for the removal of certain accounts alleged to be spreading “misinformation”.
Updated 10 Feb 2021

Twitter has expressed concern for the safety of its personnel in India, after the company's refusal to comply with a demand from the Indian government to remove accounts connected to the escalating farmers protests.

In a statement, Twitter stated that it had reached out to the Indian government to initiate a "formal dialogue", after the Ministry of Information and Technology requested the removal of over a thousand tweets, citing propaganda and misinformation - a request that Twitter did not comply with.

Last week, the Indian government threatened Twitter employees in the country with fines and imprisonment (up to seven years), if the company did not comply with their demands - to which the company responded that "the tweets must continue to flow".

In a statement, the company stated that the “Safety of our employees is a top priority for us at Twitter. We continue to be engaged with the government of India from a position of respect and have reached out to the Honourable Minister, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, for a formal dialogue.”

The company articulated that Twitter's priority was the "open and free exchange of information” and that it would hold firm to its “fundamental values and commitment to protecting the public conversation”.

The Indian government filed the order against Twitter under the information technology act that warrants the government to take action against social media posts and content that pose an alleged threat to public order.

A similar demand was made by the government previously, to delete 257 accounts using the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide, to which the government stated that it was inflaming a "public order situation".

Twitter initially complied, and the social media company came under huge criticism for what many saw as censorship on behalf of the Indian government, and after Twitter officials found “insufficient justification” for the complaints, the accounts were unblocked less than six hours later.

The unblocking of the accounts reportedly angered the Indian government, which accused Twitter of violating sovereign laws and that refusal to comply “will invite penal action”.

Tweets by the pop singer Rihanna and the environmental activist Greta Thunberg drew attention to the farmers’ cause, and subsequently have prompted outrage, as Prime Minister Modi stated in parliament that India was at risk from a “foreign destructive ideology”.

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