Twitter moves court over Centre's 'arbitrary' content blocking orders

In a June letter, the IT Ministry had warned Twitter of strict action if it does not comply with some content takedown orders.

Published: 05th July 2022 06:45 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th July 2022 10:59 AM   |  A+A-

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By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Social media platform Twitter on Tuesday moved the Karnataka High Court against the Centre’s order last week to take down content under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, alleging abuse of power by the officials. 

Twitter’s response comes in the wake of a government warning that it had failed to comply with two take-down orders from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), issued on June 6 and 9. In its warning of last week, the government pointed out that Twitter could lose its protection as an intermediary under the new IT regulations if it continued to be in violation of the rules. It had set a deadline of July 4 for Twitter to comply with its order. The IT Act empowers the government to block public access to content in the interest of national security, among other reasons.

The confrontation came to a head last year when the government wanted several Twitter handles, including international advocacy group Freedom House, politicians, journalists and many individuals who were supportive of the farmers’ protest, blocked. On June 26, acting on the government’s request, Twitter blocked over 80 accounts.

ALSO READ | Twitter document shows government's requests for blocking tweets of advocacy groups, politicians 

Twitter has been subjected to a police investigation. Last year, some Central government ministers moved to Koo, a social media platform, holding Twitter responsible for not complying with domestic Indian laws.
While news agency Reuters reported that MeitY did not comment on Twitter’s decision to move court, officials told PTI that the social media platform has complied with the June 27 notice as it did not want to lose liability exemptions available as a content host.

ALSO READ | Twitter handle that flagged Zubair's 2018 tweet deleted: Police sources

In its plea, Twitter argued that some removal orders were not in accordance with the procedural requirements of the IT Act. The ministry has been considering some amendments to the IT law, including setting up a government-run appeals panel that would have the power to reverse the content moderation decisions. These measures, it argued, were needed because the firms violated the rights of many Indians. 
For the record, industry transparency reports have pointed out that Indian government requests for content takedowns are among the highest.

‘No advance notice’
In its plea before the court, Twitter argued that some of the government orders did not give advance notice to authors of the content said to be objectionable. Twitter has an estimated 24 million users in India.

READ HERE | Last chance? Centre issues notice to Twitter to comply with its order by July 4


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