Twitter, the microblogging giant, sent a note to the Indian government on Tuesday amid the ongoing spat with the Centre, stating “tweets must continue to flow” and that their “top priority” was their employees’ safety, after the government demanded additional 1,178 accounts to be blocked, Buzzfeed News reported.
According to the report, this came after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) threatened the social-networking giant of penal consequences if it didn’t reblock the 257 accounts that have been posting updates on the ongoing farmers’ protest.
The controversy began on February 1, when Twitter withheld over 250 accounts including The Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha, Tractor2Twitr for several hours. The social media giant stated “response to legal demands” as the reason to withhold these accounts.
The MeitY had reportedly directed Twitter to withhold the accounts that actively post updates of the ongoing farmers’ protest and for allegedly tweeting or retweeting #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag, making “fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets”.
Last week, Twitter denied to abide by the Central government’s order of blocking over 250 accounts.
The Central government issued a notice to the social-networking giant warning it of penal consequences under Section 69A(3) of the Information Technology Act in case of “non-compliance” with the directions.
Twitter had then written to the MeitY refusing to comply with the Central government’s order to block one hashtag and 257 URLs.
Mahima Kaul, who served over five years as Twitter’s public policy director of India and South Asia, resigned amid the ongoing differences between the Indian government and the microblogging giant, stating she wanted to “focus on her personal life”.
On Monday, the Central government once again asked the microblogging giant to suspend 1,178 accounts which they claimed were backed by Pakistan or operated by supporters of the ongoing farmers’ protest from what they term as ‘Khalistan’, two technology ministry sources said.
Twitter had then shared a statement saying: “Safety of our employees is a top priority for us at Twitter. We continue to be engaged with the Government of India from a position of respect and have reached out to the Honourable Minister for a formal dialogue. An acknowledgement to the receipt of the non-compliance notice has also been formally communicated. We review every report we receive from the government as expeditiously as possible, and take appropriate action regarding such reports while making sure we hold firm to our fundamental values and commitment to protecting the public conversation. An update is shared through our established channels of communication with the Government. We strongly believe that the open and free exchange of information has a positive global impact, and that the tweets must continue to flow.”
According to the Buzzfeed News, a government official said that India was upset with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for liking tweets supporting the farmers’ protests.
Dorsey had liked editor of The Washington Post Karen Attiah’s tweets praising pop star Rihanna on her stand supporting India’s ongoing farmers’ protest. Dorsey had also liked Attiah’s tweet suggesting Twitter should introduce an emoji resembling the farmers’ protest.
Twitter has declined comment on the matter.