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Centre demands, but Twitter is pushing back

Twitter’s compliance with such requests in India has only been 11.8%, down from 36.3% in Jul-Dec 2019. It was one of the lowest rates among countries with a sizable number of removal requests: The worldwide compliance rate was as high as 54.1% (Illustration: Reuters)Premium
Twitter’s compliance with such requests in India has only been 11.8%, down from 36.3% in Jul-Dec 2019. It was one of the lowest rates among countries with a sizable number of removal requests: The worldwide compliance rate was as high as 54.1% (Illustration: Reuters)

As the number of content removal requests by the government increased, Twitter’s compliance rate with such requests decreased between Jul-Dec 2019 and Jan-Jun 2021

Social media giant Twitter is once again at loggerheads with the Indian government. In the latest escalation, the microblogging platform moved the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday, seeking legal recourse against successive orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to take down several tweets. Twitter said some of the takedown orders amounted to abuse of power, while the government says all social media platforms have “unambiguous obligation to comply with our laws and rules".

Last month, Twitter had blocked access to over 80 links on its website, and also several accounts, complying with the Centre’s requests made in 2021. However, the court petition suggests that the social media platform wants to draw a line.

The data published by Twitter Transparency Centre shows that the number of requests for content removal (including action to withhold or suspend accounts, tweets, or both) faced by Twitter in India has increased in recent times. During Jul-Dec 2019, the social media platform received 782 requests, which increased to 4,903 during Jan-Jun 2021, the latest data available. This includes court orders, demands by executive authorities and legal demands by lawyers representing individuals.

However, Twitter’s compliance with such requests in India has only been 11.8%, down from 36.3% in Jul-Dec 2019. It was one of the lowest rates among countries with a sizable number of removal requests: The worldwide compliance rate was as high as 54.1%.

Only nine out of 4,903 requests in Jan-Jun 2021 were directed by Indian courts, implying that the rest involved executive authorities or lawyers representing individuals.

India’s requests to Twitter for sharing account-related information also spiked during this period. It increased from 789 to 2,175, and the compliance rate, on an average, for such requests has been even lower at 4.6% since 2018. This number solely comprises requests from governments and government agencies.

Such a low compliance rate may explain why the government wants to tighten the noose on Twitter, which wants to minimize government’s intervention in content regulation. A Mint analysis has previously shown that Twitter significantly trailed Google and Facebook in taking action on government’s requests.

Last month, the government added a clause in Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics) Rules 2021, which will allow it to supersede content regulation decisions made by social media platforms, including Twitter.

Clearly, the government wants to be the final authority on speech regulation and is unwilling to let a private entity take a call on it. The question is, who will have the last word, let’s wait for the high court’s ruling on this.

 

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