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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
1 Jul 2023

NextImg:India Court Rejects Twitter’s Plea Against Govt’s Content Blocking Orders

India’s Karnataka High Court on Friday denied a petition filed by Twitter to overturn the federal government’s content-blocking orders and fined the U.S.-based company 5 million rupees (around $61,000).

In its ruling, the court deemed the blocking orders against Twitter to be “reasoned decisions,” citing the “anti-national” element and the potential of the content to incite “cognizable offenses relating to the sovereignty and integrity of India.”

“Many of them have outrageous content; many are treacherous and anti-national; many have abundant propensity to incite commission of cognizable offenses relating to sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State and public order,” the court said.

“No reasonable person in the trade would agree with the contention of the petitioner that reasons for the impugned orders are lacking,” it added.

“State need not await the arrival of an avalanche of mishaps; it can take all preventive measures in anticipation of danger, more particularly when undoing of the damage is difficult, regard being had to its enormity.”

The court said that Twitter was levied for failing to comply with the government’s blocking orders on time.

“For more than a year, the blocking orders were not implemented by the petitioner, and there is no plausible explanation offered therefor,” it said. “There is a willful non-compliance of the blocking orders.”

The case dates back to 2021 when Twitter declined to fully comply with an order to take down accounts and posts that India alleged were spreading misinformation about anti-government protests by farmers.

People attend a Maha Panchayat or grand village council meeting as part of a farmers’ protest against farm laws at Kandela village in Jind district in the northern state of Haryana, India, Feb. 3, 2021. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Twitter, which has nearly 24 million users in India, had previously complied with the content blocking orders so as not to lose liability exemptions available as a host of content. But it claimed that some blocking orders fell short of the procedural standards of India’s information technology laws.

The company had argued that the content removal orders were “overbroad and arbitrary, fail to provide notice to the originators of the content, and are disproportionate.”

The court’s decision came after former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s interview with the American Youtube show Breaking Points on June 13, in which he alleged that the government had threatened to shut down Twitter if the company refused to comply with its orders.

Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey gestures while interacting with students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 12, 2018. (Prakash Singh/AFP via Getty Images)

“India, for example, was a country that had many requests around the farmers’ protests, around particular journalists that were critical of the government,” Dorsey said.

“It manifested in ways such as: ‘we will shut Twitter down in India’—which is a very large market for us; ‘we will raid the homes of your employees,’ which they did; ‘we will shut down your offices if you don’t follow suit.’ And this is India, a democratic country,” he added.

Deputy Minister for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar refuted his claims as “an outright lie,” saying that Twitter had repeatedly violated India’s law under Dorsey’s leadership.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk acquired and took over the micro-blogging site in October 2022.

“As a matter of fact, they were in non-compliance with [the] law repeatedly from 2020 to 2022, and it was only June 2022 when they finally complied,” Chandrasekhar stated on Twitter.

“No one went to jail, nor was Twitter’ shut down.’ Dorsey’s Twitter regime had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law. It behaved as if the laws of India did not apply to it,” he added. “To set the record straight, no one was raided or sent to jail.”

The company has also been subject to police investigations in India, and in 2021 many government ministers switched from Twitter to Koo, an Indian social media platform, accusing Twitter of non-compliance with local laws.

Industry transparency reports show India has among the highest number of government requests for content removal on social media platforms.

SpaceX, Twitter, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk meets with France’s President at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, on May 15, 2023. (Photo by Michel Euler/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Twitter has been going through a transformative phase since Musk acquired the platform last year, with advertisers slowing spending and the company losing nearly 80 percent of its staff.

Musk told reporters last week that he had an “excellent conversation” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 20, who was on a four-day state visit to the United States. Musk signaled interest in making a “significant investment” in India and suggested that he would bring his electric vehicle manufacturing business to the country without elaborating on details.

Reuters contributed to this report.