Twitter said today that it’s taken action on more than 500 accounts in India, including permanently suspending some of them, based on government order.
The social media company said that in the last 10 days, “several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).” The company acted on some temporarily and then restored the accounts on the basis of free speech.
For context, earlier this month, Twitter restricted access to several high-profile accounts for folks in India. These included the Caravan magazine, pro-farmers organization Kisan Ekta Morcha, Shashi Shekhar Vempati, the chief executive of state-run radio agency Prasar Bharti, and the Communist Party of India’s (Marxist) Puducherry account.
A lot of these accounts were tweeting content related to the ongoing farmer’s protest in India. Hours later, following a massive uproar and outrage, the company restored the accounts and content.
At that time many restricted tweets contained #modiplanningfarmersgenocide hashtag. Today, Twitter said that it has reduced the reach of hashtags “containing harmful content.” However, the social network has often allowed hashtags with questionable content to reach the trending topics section in the past.
Twitter also said that it hasn’t taken any action on accounts of journalists, activists, and politicians:
Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians.
Last week, the Indian government sent a notice to the company, that failing to comply with its order may come with penalties. Twitter said that it will “continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve. We are exploring options under Indian law — both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted.”
The company acts fast and has a clear set of rules for the US. However, in countries such as India, it blindly follows a template global policy. It’s high time that Twitter sets more robust guidelines for non-US regions by understanding the cultural contexts of different countries.