With the ongoing farmers protests in India, Twitter has found itself in a bit of a pickle, where it is facing pressure from both sides of the aisle to take action. The Indian government wants the social media platform to follow its commands and take down content that it deems to be inappropriate, while the protestors retaliate when Twitter accommodates said requests. With tensions already at peak, the Indian government has sent orders to ban an additional 1,178 accounts, claiming that it wants to maintain peace and harmony in the country.
The government claims that these accounts belong to Pakistan and Khalistani sympathizers, who are tweeting about the ongoing farmers’ protests. It also says that this is a ploy to disturb peace in the nation by talking about a sensitive issue. Moreover, it is also being claimed that many of these accounts are automated bots that are being used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative contents on the platform.
To this, Twitter responded with: “Twitter is guided by principles of transparency and empowering the public conversation. If we receive a valid legal request about potentially illegal content on Twitter, we review it under the Twitter Rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter’s Rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may withhold access to the content in the location only. In all cases, we notify the account holder directly, so they’re aware we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account. Our goal is to respect local law while protecting our foundational principles of free expression.”
Twitter also said that the content comes under free speech, and is in fact, newsworthy.
This is not the first time that the Indian government has sought to get accounts banned in face of the farmers protest. Earlier, the government had ordered Twitter to ban/suspend several accounts, something that Twitter complied readily with. However, when it was faced with stark criticism, the platform started restoring the accounts. This, as one would expect, infuriated the government, which said that Twitter needs to stop assuming the role of a decision maker and comply with the orders it was given.
However, until now, the social media platform has ignored the threat passed by the government, and no action has been taken. In fact, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was found liking tweets that were in support of the protests. Thus, there’s a high chance that Twitter’s response to the whole situation will diverge from Indian government’s wishes.