NEW DELHI: The Indian government’s battle with social media giants escalated Thursday with Twitter accusing the police of “intimidation” and slamming new IT rules that have also alarmed its peers and privacy campaigners.
Critics say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration wants to stifle online criticism in what is a huge market for Twitter, Facebook and others. The government rejects the accusations.
Late Monday Indian police visited Twitter’s offices to serve a notice to the US company over its failure to remove a “manipulated media” label that it had placed on a tweet by the ruling party’s spokesman.
It followed spats earlier this year when Twitter partially refused to comply with official requests to remove tweets critical of contentious new farming laws and of the government’s handling of the pandemic.
“Right now, we are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve,” a Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
It added that together with many in civil society in India and around the world, Twitter has “concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service”.
The microblogging site also criticised “core elements” of new IT rules that came into force on Wednesday and which have prompted WhatsApp to launch legal action against the Indian government. The regulations could require social media companies to trace the “first originator” of posts deemed to undermine India’s sovereignty, state security or “public order”. The firms and privacy activists fear that the vagueness of the rules mean that the companies could be forced to identify the author of posts critical of the government.