On Monday, Twitter temporarily blocked people in India from viewing certain accounts of activists, political commentators, a popular movie star and a top investigative journalism, Caravans, by order of the country government. All accounts have one thing in common – they have criticized India’s Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi. Twitter reinstated the accounts more than six hours later, telling government officials that tweets and accounts constitute free speech and trust.
The move comes in a campaign to crack down on dissent in India and raise questions about the role of American tech companies there. Over the past few weeks, the authorities in India have been filed lure cases against journalists known for reporting peasant protests that challenged the Modi government. Over the weekend, police in New Delhi, the capital of India, arrested two journalists, one of them is still in custody.
Last week, the calls to “shoot” protesting farmers tends to last for hours on Twitter, when thousands of tweets encouraging police brutality flooded the platform.
Some of the most prominent accounts that Twitter temporarily blocked in the country include those that tweeted updates about farmers’ protests, in addition to Caravan.
“The Caravan employees feel that Twitter’s decision to keep our official account is the latest in a long list of targeted attacks that have been published in the publication for pursuit of sentences. It’s fearlessly important, ”Vinod K. Jose, the magazine’s executive editor, and one of the journalists who filed his denunciation last week told BuzzFeed News.
After Caravan returned to Twitter, it tweeted, “Our account has been restored. Today more than ever, it is clear that the true media need real allies. We thank our readers, subscribers, and collaborators for their unwavering support. “
In a statement, Twitter said: “Many countries have laws that apply to Tweet and / or Twitter account content. In our constant endeavor to provide our services to people everywhere, if we receive request the correct scope from an authorized entity, from time to time, it may be necessary to deny access to certain content in a particular country. Transparency is critical to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notification policy on retained content. Upon receipt of a request to retain content, we will immediately notify the affected account holders (unless we are prohibited from doing so, for example if we receive a stamped court order). “
Twitter retains tweets and accounts, including in the US, if it receives “a valid and well-scoped request from an authorized organization,” according to the company. website. These tweets or accounts often show up in the rest of the world. The company states that they “immediately notify affected users unless we are prohibited from doing so” and publishes the above requirements. Lumen, a Harvard University project.
But those with accounts temporarily blocked in India say Twitter did not notify them prior to taking action.
“They didn’t contact me before taking action against my account,” Sanjukta Basu, a political commentator with a Twitter account, told BuzzFeed News.
Jose said Twitter did not notify the magazine prior to blocking the account and only received a response from the company an hour after blocking. “Twitter did not disclose where the legal removal request came from,” he said.
BuzzFeed News learned that the legal order came from India’s IT Ministry according to one part The law allows the government to order the removal of content deemed a threat to national security and prevent companies like Twitter from disclosing information about account blocking or tweets. The IT ministry declined to issue an official statement.
Twitter confirmed that the orders were coming from India’s IT Ministry, but said it would not upload them to the Lumen database because the accounts were unlocked.
The company found itself stuck between local law and global human rights standards.
“Internet platforms need to ensure that any action they take on a government order to remove content respects international human rights law standards,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, national advisor. Senior Economic Officer and Director of Policy Asia Pacific at Access Now, a nonprofit internet advocate, told BuzzFeed News. “They should oppose the excess orders or try to discourage media outlets from explicitly reporting them.”
That may mean, even temporarily, taking actions that seem unimaginable in other countries – actions that lead to harsh criticism.
“Can you imagine @twitter summarizing a New Yorker or Atlantic account after a legal letter?” tweeted Nicholas Dawes, executive editor of City and former director at Human Rights Watch. “Applying human rights-based standards to censor content on a global scale can be difficult, but that’s the job they applied for.”