Eliminate inflammatory content or be ready for jail, sanction: Government to Twitter | India News
NEW DELHI: On Wednesday, the government warned Twitter to obey its orders regarding the removal of “inflammatory content” in farmers’ protests, or to be ready to face jail time and a financial penalty.
The action, under Section 69A (3) of the IT Act, could result in up to seven years in jail for senior Twitter India officials and a financial fine for the company.
The government issued the ultimatum after Twitter refused to comply with its request to block 257 accounts that had used the #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag. Initially, the company had “held” the accounts, but later unblocked them, citing “free speech” and “newsworthy” content.
Accounts that allegedly used the ‘incendiary’ hashtag included Kisan Ekta Morcha (isKisanektamorcha), BKU Ekta Ugrahan (kBkuektaugrahan), Caravan magazine (@thecaravanindia), PCM leader Mohammad Salim (alsalimdotcomrade), and activist Hansraj Meena (Hansraj Meena ansHans).
An angry IT ministry, headed by Ravi Shankar Prasad, responded on Wednesday, warning the company to comply with its instructions, which it said had been given with public order in mind and in order to defuse tension and hate.
“Twitter is an intermediary and they are obliged to obey the instructions of the government. Refusing to do so will invite criminal action, ”the IT ministry said in a notice sent to the company, according to sources. He added that “motivated campaigns” and the hashtag were being run to “abuse, inflame and create tension in society for unfounded reasons.”
“Incitement to genocide is not freedom of expression; It is a threat to law and order. Delhi had witnessed the violence on Republic Day, ”the notice read, while reiterating its request to block the accounts.
“Twitter cannot sit as an appellate authority above the satisfaction of the authorities about its possible impact on the derailment of public order. It cannot assume the role of court and justify non-compliance, ”the notice said. He also cited more than half a dozen Supreme Court rulings, “including those of the constitutional courts,” on what constitutes public order and the rights of the authorities.
When contacted by phone, a Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
The government had originally requested the company to block 257 URLs and the disputed hashtag on January 31 under Section 69A of the IT Act, saying they were “spreading misinformation about the protests and that it has the potential to lead to a imminent violence that affects the public order situation in the country. ” ”.
The notice further said that Twitter only blocked these accounts the next day (February 1, 2021) for a few minutes before allowing them to return for freedom of expression reasons, as their defender presented a case to a government committee at 3 p.m.
“Therefore, it is clear that the offending tweets / hashtag remained in the public domain and must have been tweeted and re-tweeted several times at the risk and cost of public order and at the risk of incitement to the commission of crimes,” the notice read . , adding that he is receiving the response from the company where he has “refused to abide and obey” the order.
The notice said that Section 69A of the IT Act grants jurisdiction to the government to order an intermediary to block public access to any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted on any computer resource if it is necessary or convenient to prevent incitement to the commission of any recognizable crime of public order.
“It should be noted that under the relevant provisions of Indian law, the broker is obliged to comply with the order of the designated official authorized by the Center and in case of non-compliance, legal consequences will be followed,” he said.
Regarding Twitter that cited the right to freedom of expression, the notice said that the company “has no constitutional, statutory or legal basis whatsoever to comment on the interaction of legal provisions with constitutional principles or to unilaterally read the scope of the statutory provisions according to your own understanding of the constitutional and legal laws of India ”.