The Government of India has warned that it may penalize the firm or even jail senior Twitter officials for seven years, if it does not remove inflammatory content and comply with sovereign regulations.
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The government on Wednesday warned Twitter to either follow its orders regarding removal of “inflammatory content” on farmers’ protests, or be ready to face jail and financial penalty.
The action, under the IT Act Section 69A (3), could result in up to seven years jail for senior Twitter India officials, and a financial penalty on the firm.
The government issued the ultimatum after Twitter refused to comply with its request to block 257 accounts that had used the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide.
The company had initially “withheld” the accounts, but later unblocked them, citing “free speech” and “newsworthy” content.
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An angry IT ministry, headed by Ravi Shankar Prasad, hit back on Wednesday, warning the company to comply with its instructions — which, it said, had been given keeping public order in mind and in order to diffuse tension and hatred.
“Twitter is an intermediary and they are obliged to obey directions of the government. Refusal to do so will invite penal action,” the IT ministry said in a notice sent to the company, according to sources.
It added that “motivated campaigns” and the hashtag were being run to “abuse, inflame and create tension in society on unsubstantiated grounds”.
“Incitement to genocide is not freedom of speech; It is threat to law and order. Delhi had witnessed violence on Republic Day,” the notice said, while reiterating its request to block the accounts.
“Twitter cannot sit as an appellate authority over the satisfaction of the authorities about its potential impact on derailing public order. It cannot assume the role of court and justify non-compliance,” the notice said. It also quoted more than half a dozen Supreme Court judgments, “including of Constitutional benches” on what constitutes public order and the rights of authorities.
With regard to Twitter citing right to freedom of speech, the notice said the company has “no constitutional, statutory or any legal basis whatsoever to comment upon the interplay of statutory provisions with constitutional principles or to unilaterally read down the scope of statutory provisions as per its own understanding of the constitutional and statutory laws of India”.
As GreatGameIndia reported last year, Twitter has appointed suspected Chinese spy Fei-Fei Li to the Board of Directors. Li has been involved with the project to weaponize Artificial Intelligence for human-machine combat teaming for the Chinese military in collaboration with Google.