Twitter complies with Indian government orders to block hundreds of accounts

The platform said it is currently exploring options to circumvent the blocking orders as it believes the company's fundamental right to free expression under Indian law has been violated.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

Twitter has permanently banned or hidden over 500 accounts in response to blocking orders it received from the Indian government.

In a blog post published on Wednesday, Twitter said the orders were served under section 69A of the Information Technology Act, which means that failure to comply could result in the imprisonment of Twitter employees.

The social media platform has also reduced the visibility of various hashtags containing harmful content, which entailed prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended search terms, and withheld various accounts from being viewed in India to comply with the orders.

These withheld accounts are only hidden in India, however, and are still available outside of India, Twitter said.

In response to the orders, Twitter said it is currently exploring options under Indian law as the company believes the orders for bans, as a whole, are not consistent with Indian law.

"We are exploring options under Indian law -- both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted. We remain committed to safeguarding the health of the conversation occurring on Twitter, and strongly believe that the Tweets should flow," Twitter said in the blog post. 

In addition, Twitter said it has ignored two of India's emergency blocking orders, which they had initially complied with, as the platform believes the two orders violate the company's fundamental right to free expression under Indian law by calling for the accounts of activists and journalists to be banned.

The various blocking orders, in total, call for Twitter to block over 1,000 accounts. Many of the accounts are linked to the Khalistan movement and farmer protests, according to a local report.

Since last year, farmers, primarily from Haryana and Punjab, have been protesting in New Delhi against agricultural reform laws that they claim have lessened their bargaining power with corporations. Since the protests commenced, the Narendra Modi-run government has refused to make any changes to the agricultural laws, while also blocking mobile internet services in several areas where the protests have been occuring.

On the same day of Twitter posting the blog post, the company's CFO Ned Segal confirmed that former US President Donald Trump has been permanently banned from Twitter and there would be no revocation of the ban.

"So the way our policies work when you're removed from the platform you're removed from the platform; whether you're a commentator, or a CFO, or you are a former or current public official. So remember, our policies are designed to make sure that people are not inciting violence and if anybody does that we have to remove them from the service and our policies do not allow [these] people to come back," Segal told CNBC in an interview.

Trump was banned last month after he made two tweets that were perceived to have escalated ongoing tensions and encouraged the storming of the US Capitol.

The Twitter suspension came after Facebook suspended Trump accounts on the social network and Instagram through inauguration day. 

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