Twitter pursues legal review of Indian orders to take down content: Report

Twitter is seeking to overturn some Indian government orders to take down content on the social media platform in a legal challenge which alleges abuse of power by officials, reuters reported citing a source familiar with the matter.

Twitter’s attempt to get a judicial review is part of a growing confrontation with Indian government.

The US company has been asked by Indian government over the past year to act on content including accounts supportive of an independent Sikh state, posts alleged to have spread misinformation about farmers’ historic protest and over tweets critical of the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IT ministry did not immediately respond on Tuesday to a request for comment about Twitter’s legal move.

The Union government has previously said that big social media firms, including Twitter, have not complied with removal requests, despite their legal standing. Late last month, Twitter was warned by India’s IT ministry of criminal proceedings if it did not comply with some orders, Reuters reported. Twitter complied this week, the source said to news agency, so as not to lose liability exemptions available as a host of content.

Twitter argues in its request for a judicial review that some removal orders fell short of the procedural requirements of India’s IT act, the source said, without specifying which ones Twitter wanted to be reviewed.

India’s new IT act allows the government to block public access to content in the interest of national security, among other reasons.

Twitter also argued in its filing that some of the orders failed to give notice to authors of the content.

It also says that some were related to political content posted by official handles of political parties, the blocking of which amount to violation of freedom of speech, the source said to Reuters.

Tensions with the Indian government flared early last year when Twitter declined to fully comply with an order to take down accounts and posts which India alleged were spreading misinformation about the farmers’ protest.

Twitter has also been subject to police investigations in India and last year many Union ministers moved to domestically developed platform Koo, accusing Twitter of non-compliance with Indian laws.

Twitter has also faced a backlash in India for blocking accounts of influential individuals, including politicians, citing violations of its policies.

India is considering some amendments to its new IT rules, including the introduction of a government-run appeals panel with the power to reverse the content moderation decisions of social media firms.

India has said such measures were needed because the companies had violated Indians’ constitutional rights.