Twitter Blasts India Over New Content Rules

Twitter has spoken up 🗣️ about the Indian government’s attempt to censor online content. The social media giant said the newly passed IT rules are a developing threat to the freedom of speech and expression.

The platform voiced its concerns after the Indian government reportedly deployed a police raid on its offices in India. It claimed this raid constituted 💪 “intimidation tactics.”

“We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global terms of service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules,” Twitter told the press.

The statement follows a non-compliance notice that was issued against Twitter in January. The notice requested the removal 🚫 of individual accounts and content. Here’s what we know about the situation. 

Why Is Twitter Refusing to Comply?

Twitter has balked at complying with the Indian government’s notices. The company believes these actions would result in a violation of free speech and expression. According to Twitter, the notices requested the blocking of accounts belonging to various journalists, politicians, activists, and news media entities. 

In addition to the January notice, Twitter has gotten two ✌️ additional notices. The first focuses on the platform’s content and media about India’s current COVID situation. The government wanted Twitter to censor various tweets criticizing its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. India currently has over 23.3 million confirmed COVID cases, with new cases reported daily. The second notice requested the platform block tweets about the recent Punjabi farmer protests.

Until this recent statement blasting 📣 the Indian government’s actions, Twitter tried to comply with India’s requests to the best of its abilities. Half measures are now going to be impossible thanks to the government’s new laws, which allow the arrest of Twitter employees in the event of non-compliance. 

Amendments to India’s IT Act

In February, numerous changes were made to India’s IT Act. One of the changes gives the government influence to force social media platforms to block content in “the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense.”

Twitter expressed concern about the new rules, especially the change that could make its compliance officer liable 👮 for content posted on the platform. The company stated that this implementation represents a dangerous overreach that is not compatible with open and democratic principles.

The platform said it will attempt to convince 🥺 the Indian government to make changes to the new laws while asking for a three-month extension so that the company can implement the rules.

Before the implementation of these new laws, the Indian government only censored newspapers, television, films, and theater. Digital content 🖥️ managed to go unnoticed.

What This Means for Social Media in India

The new laws implemented by the Indian government applies to social media companies with over 5 million users in the country, It requires the traceability 🕵️ of end-to-end encrypted messages.

The companies must change their interface to identify verified users from others. They must also set up automated tools for regulating content and informing users if their accounts have been blocked. Additionally, social media companies will have to establish local offices 🏢 with officials assigned to deal with grievances and law enforcement matters. Finally, the government requires monthly compliance reports.

Social media companies have to make significant changes 🔧 to their operating model to accommodate the new regulations. For example, they will have to make alterations to their technology architecture to integrate automated tools that filter out content.

Larger social media companies are already resisting these new laws on account of the request to trace users. For example, WhatsApp has expressed similar concerns as Twitter about the new laws. In fact, the messaging app has already filed a lawsuit 📜 against the Indian government. The laws could potentially force Twitter to remove its end-to-end encryption.

What happens now? The next few months are going to be interesting for social media platforms that operate in India. Tech companies will have to make major changes to their operations, and user privacy is at risk. However, it’s too early to tell if their arguments about free speech violations will hold water in the Indian justice system.