Have blocked ‘a portion’ of the accounts identified by govt: Twitter blogpost

Explaining its stand on the blocking orders for certain handles from the Indian government, micro-blogging platform Twitter on Wednesday said it had now “withheld a portion of the accounts” identified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) within India. Twitter said it had informed MeitY of its enforcement actions but was also “actively exploring options under Indian law”.

The Twitter blog post that went live on Wednesday morning, however, added that it was not acting on the “accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians” since they “do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression”.

The Indian Express had Wednesday reported that citing “misinformation and provocative content” on the farmers’ protest, Twitter had “reached out” to Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for a “formal dialogue” on the issue. On February 4, the IT ministry had sent Twitter a list of nearly 1,200 accounts, asking it to either suspend or block them in India. These accounts, the notice had said, “were flagged by security agencies as accounts of Khalistan sympathisers or backed by Pakistan”.

The blog post said that over the course of the last 10 days, “Twitter has been served with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act”. Two of these were “emergency blocking orders that we temporarily complied with”, though Twitter decided to restore the said accounts “in a manner that we believe was consistent with Indian law”. After this was communicated to MeitY, the post said, Twitter was “served with a non-compliance notice”.

The post which starts by underlining that Twitter believes “transparency is the foundation to promoting healthy public conversation on Twitter and to earn trust”, also lists actions taken by the platform since January 26.

The platform said it had taken “action on hundreds of accounts that violated the Twitter Rules, particularly inciting violence, abuse, wishes of harm, and threats that could trigger the risk of offline harm”. Then it claimed to have reduced “the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended Search terms”.

It also “suspended more than 500 accounts that were engaging in clear examples of platform manipulation and spam”, the post said, adding that the platform also “tackled misinformation based on the highest potential for real-world harm, and prioritised labeling of Tweets that were in violation of our synthetic and manipulated media policy.”

The blogpost also underlined that the “values that underpin the Open Internet and free expression are increasingly under threat around the world” and Twitter “strongly believe that the Tweets should flow”.

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