Twitter Files Petition Against Indian Government’s Online Censorship

By Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.
July 7, 2022 Updated: July 7, 2022

Twitter Inc. has petitioned an Indian high court to overturn the government’s content removal orders after the Indian government warned of “serious consequences” for noncompliance with such orders.

The social media giant filed a writ petition with the Karnataka High Court on July 5 and sought judicial review of some of the content included in the removal orders.

Twitter argued that the content removal orders were “overbroad and arbitrary, fail to provide notice to the originators of the content, and are disproportionate,” The Hindu reported, citing information from unnamed sources.

Blocking such content is a violation of freedom of speech, particularly when the rationale for blocking is unclear, the sources said. Some of the tweets contained political content posted by official handles of political parties.

“Several blocking orders that were issued to Twitter only cite the grounds of Section 69A but fail to demonstrate how the content falls within those grounds or how the said content is violative of Section 69A,” the sources said.

Section 69A of India’s Information Technology Act allows the government to block public access to content in the interest of national security.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Minister of State for Electronics and Information and Technology, said in a tweet that all foreign internet intermediaries and social media platforms operating in India must adhere to the country’s law.

The Epoch Times has reached out to Twitter for comment.

Blocking Orders

The Indian Electronics and Information Technology Ministry warned in June that failure to comply with its content blocking orders would result in “serious consequences,” including criminal proceedings against Twitter’s chief compliance officer, The Hindu reported.

Twitter, which has nearly 24 million users in India, had previously complied with the content blocking orders so as not to lose liability exemptions available as a host of content. But it claimed that some blocking orders fell short of the procedural standards of India’s information technology laws.

Tensions with the Indian government flared in 2021 when Twitter declined to fully comply with an order to take down accounts and posts that New Delhi alleged were spreading misinformation about antigovernment protests by farmers.

The company, based in the United States, has also been subject to police investigations in India, and in 2021 many government ministers switched from Twitter to Koo, an Indian social media platform, accusing Twitter of noncompliance with local laws.

Industry transparency reports show India has among the highest number of government requests for content removal on social media platforms. The Indian government is considering some amendments to its rules, including the introduction of a government-run appeals panel with the power to reverse the content moderation decisions of social media firms.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.