Twitter seeks judicial review of India’s content removal orders – source

NEW DELHI, July 5 (Reuters) – Twitter on Tuesday asked an Indian court to overturn certain government orders to remove content from the social media platform, a source familiar with the matter said, as part of a legal challenge alleging abuse of power by officials.

The US company’s attempt to seek judicial review of the orders is part of a growing confrontation with New Delhi.

Twitter has been urged by Indian authorities over the past year to act on content, including accounts supporting an independent Sikh state, posts that allegedly spread false information about the farmers’ protests and tweets criticizing the government management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Whether it’s any company, in any industry, they have to abide by Indian laws,” India’s IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Reuters partner ANI, said on Tuesday, responding to questions. questions about Twitter’s legal decision.

The IT Department did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The Indian government has previously said that major social media companies, including Twitter, have failed to comply with removal requests, despite their legal status.

Late last month, Twitter was warned by the IT Department of criminal prosecution if it failed to comply with certain orders. Twitter complied this week, the source said, so as not to lose liability waivers available as a content host.

In a filing with the highest court in India’s southern state of Karnataka, Twitter argued that certain removal orders failed to meet procedural requirements of India’s IT law, the source said. without specifying which ones she wished to examine.

The IT Act allows the government to block public access to content in the interest of national security, among other reasons.

Twitter, which market research firms say has nearly 24 million users in India, also argues in its filing that some of the orders failed to notify the authors of the content.

It says some were related to political content posted by official pseudonyms of political parties, the blocking of which amounts to a violation of freedom of expression, the source added.

All companies, including foreign social media intermediaries, have the right to go to court, Deputy IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in a tweet hours after Twitter’s legal ruling, without naming the company.

“But equally, ALL intermediaries/platforms operating here have an unequivocal obligation to comply with our laws and rules,” he said.

Tensions with the Indian government erupted early last year when Twitter refused to fully comply with an order to remove accounts and posts that New Delhi said spread false information about farmers’ anti-government protests.

The company has also been the subject of police investigations in India, and last year many government ministers switched to the nationally developed platform Koo, accusing Twitter of failing to comply with local laws.

Twitter has also faced backlash in India for blocking the accounts of influential people, including politicians, citing violations of its policies.

India, which according to industry transparency reports has among the highest government demands for content removal, is considering changes to its new IT rules, including the introduction of a committee government-run appeals body with the power to overrule social media companies’ content moderation decisions. .

New Delhi said such measures were necessary because the companies had violated the constitutional rights of Indians.

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Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in New Delhi; Editing by Alexander Smith and Kim Coghill

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