If Twitter fails to comply, the company’s senior Indian officials could face jail up to 7 years along with a penalty.

A Twitter logo on an image from the farmers protestsRepresentative Image: PTI
news Farmers’ issues Thursday, February 04, 2021 - 11:56

The government has issued a warning to Twitter to remove the “inflammatory content” or be ready for jail and a penalty. This warning was issued after Twitter refused to comply with the government’s request to block 257 accounts that has used the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide.

The IT ministry reportedly is said to have issued the warning keeping in mind public order and in order to diffuse tension and hatred.

If Twitter fails to comply, under the IT Act Section 69A(3), senior officials from Twitter India could land up in jail for up to seven years along with a financial penalty that would be levied on the company.

The notice was issued to Twitter by the Union government over “unilaterally unblocking” several Twitter accounts. The Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha and several others were earlier withheld in India after Twitter received a legal demand.

 “Twitter unilaterally unblocked accounts or tweets despite government order for blocking. Twitter is an intermediary and they are obliged to obey the direction of the government. Refusal to do so will invite penal action,” government sources had told news agency ANI.

A day after the accounts were blocked, on Tuesday, Twitter restored accounts it had withheld earlier on instructions of the government. Most accounts withheld have been actively involved in the ongoing farmers’ protests. Most of the accounts that were initially withheld have thousands of followers o n Twitter.

According to the sources, Twitter blocked the accounts under its 'Country Withheld Content' policy in response to a valid legal request from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

However, in subsequent meetings with the government officials, Twitter is learnt to have conveyed that the accounts and tweets in question constitute free speech and are newsworthy and thereafter the tweets and accounts have been unwithheld.

On Monday, a search for accounts including Kisan Ekta Morcha (@Kisanektamorcha) and BKU Ekta Urgahan (@Bkuektaugrahan) and others showed up a message saying "account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand".

A media outlet’s Twitter account and a senior functionary of a separate entity was also among the Twitter accounts that were withheld on Monday.

Sources said incitement to genocide is a grave threat to public order and therefore, MeitY ordered blocking of these Twitter accounts and tweets under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

When contacted, a Twitter spokesperson had on Monday said if it receives a "properly scoped request" from an authorised entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time."

This development came in the wake of violence in Delhi on January 26 during a tractor parade called by farmers. They were protesting against the three new central agriculture laws.


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