Twitter on Tuesday said it is seeking formal dialogue with the Information Technology Minister after the government ordered it to take down 1,178 accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation around farmers’ protests. The microblogging platform also noted that safety of its employees is a top priority. We continue to be engaged with the Government of India from a position of respect and have reached out to the Honourable Minister, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, for a formal dialogue, a Twitter spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that an acknowledgement to the receipt of the non-compliance notice has also been formally communicated. The government, on February 4, had ordered Twitter to block 1,178 accounts with links to Pakistan and Khalistan supporters that were spreading misinformation and provocative content on farmers’ protest.
Previously, too, the government had ordered Twitter to take down handles and hashtags that suggested a farmer genocide was being planned, saying such misinformation and inflammatory content will incite passion, and impact public order. It has also warned Twitter of penal action in case of failure to comply with its directive and had cited sections that provide for fine and jail for up to 7 years. Notably, Twitter’s Public Policy Director for India and South Asia Mahima Kaul has quit, fuelling speculations about her departure amid the ongoing situation. However, the company has clarified that this was not the case. “At the start of this year, Mahima Kaul decided to step down from her role as Twitter Public Policy Director for India and South Asia to take a well-deserved break. It’s a loss for all of us at Twitter, but after more than five years in the role we respect her desire to focus on the most important people and relationships in her personal life, Twitter Vice President Public Policy Monique Meche said.
Meche added that Kaul will continue in her role till the end of March and will support the transition. In an emailed response, a Twitter spokesperson said the company reviews every report it receives from the government as expeditiously as possible. It will take appropriate action regarding such reports while making sure we hold firm to our fundamental values and commitment to protecting the public conversation. An update is shared through our established channels of communication with the Government, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson emphasised that the company strongly believes that the open and free exchange of information has a positive global impact, and that the tweets must continue to flow.