Twitter Says It Gained’t Block Journalists, Activists, And Politicians In India To Defend Free Speech

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Twitter has told the Indian government that it will not restrict the accounts of journalists, activists and politicians in India despite receiving an order from the country’s federal government. However, it blocks an unspecified number of accounts that do not fall into these categories for internal viewing in the country.

In a blog post published Tuesday, the company said that while it had withheld some accounts that the Indian government wanted to block, it would not block others as it would violate freedom of speech.

“Because we do not believe that the actions we have been asked to take are in accordance with Indian law and we have not taken any action on accounts in accordance with our principles in defense of freedom of speech and expression, which consist of new media companies, journalists, activists and politicians, ”said the Twitter blog post. “We believe this would violate their fundamental right to freedom of expression under Indian law.”

Twitter’s post is in the middle of a battle with the Indian government, a key market for the company, over restricting accounts on the platform. Earlier this month, the company banned people in India from viewing more than 250 accounts in the country after India’s IT ministry received a legal emergency order. Among the blocked accounts was Caravan, an investigative news magazine; Critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; and Accounts are tweeting in support of a month-long peasants protest that ravages the country.

But Twitter restored the accounts six hours later, arguing with the Indian government that the accounts represented free speech and were noteworthy. In response, the government threatened Twitter officials with a fine of up to seven years in prison for violating their orders.

The stalemate with the Indian government has put Twitter in a difficult position. Freezing the accounts would mean the increasingly authoritarian Indian government enables crackdown on dissent, freedom of speech and journalism. However, defying the government means risking legal consequences.

In the blog post posted on Tuesday, Twitter said it had taken additional steps, such as banning hashtags of malicious content from the platform that the government feared would provoke real world violence during the protest and the permanent suspension of more than 500 accounts for violating the rules of Twitter.

However, the post also notes that Twitter is appealing to restore some accounts it restricted in the country.

“We will continue to advocate freedom of expression on behalf of the people we serve and are actively exploring options under Indian law – both for Twitter and the accounts involved,” wrote Twitter. “We continue to strive to ensure the health of the conversation taking place on Twitter and strongly believe that the tweets should flow.”