India’s Modi government is threatening Twitter employees in jail

The Indian government has threatened to fine workers seven years in prison and imprisonment on Twitter Recover hundreds of accounts It ordered the company to block. Most of the statements criticized the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Monday, Twitter obeyed government orders and prevented people in India from viewing more than two and a half hundred accounts in an investigative magazine called Activist, Political Commentator, Movie Star and Caravan. In most of the statements, Modi criticized the Hindu nationalist Prime Minister of India and his government. But the agency recovered the accounts about six hours after meeting with a Twitter lawyer with IT ministry officials, arguing that the tweets and accounts spoke for free and were newsworthy.

The Indian government disagreed. On Tuesday, the information ministry sent a notice on Twitter instructing it to block the accounts again. It also threatened people working with legal consequences on the Indian arm of Twitter, which could include fines and up to seven years in prison.

“It’s really problematic,” said Nikhil Pahwa, editor of the Media Policy website, MediaMana, and an internet activist. “I don’t see why the Indian government would enter this region trying to give censorship when there are bigger problems to deal with.”

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for the Ministry of Information did not respond to a request for comment.

The move puts the company in a tough spot. Re-blocking the accounts means taking an active part in the ongoing crackdown on disrespect in India, as anti-government protests play a role in the country. But placing the accounts on the platform means a political and legal showdown in a large market is risky.

In a notice sent on Tuesday, the government said the accounts were “spreading misinformation about the protests” and “could affect the country’s public order situation and lead to impending violence.” BuzzFeed News reviewed a copy of the notice.

Thousands of Indian farmers, who have been protesting against agrarian reforms for months, will lose their incomes as police break through barricades and jump into the Red Fort, facing the next day, January 2, a Mughal-era monument in New Delhi. , Republic Day of India. At least one protester Spoken Delhi Police died Denied They are involved in this incident

In the notice, the government claimed that a hashtag was used on the accounts that “incited the public to commit understandable crimes in the name of public order and protection of the state.”

Although Caravan did not use that hashtag, the government claimed that “news and news accounts” were spreading misinformation, creating “public persuasion” and “public order.”

A spokesman for Caravan told BuzzFeed News that its journalism was fair and professional. “We don’t understand why suddenly the Indian government should not talk to journalists on all issues,” Jose told BuzzFeed News.

Indian law prohibits Twitter from sharing legal orders received on Monday, but the agency has fought back, according to a government notification on Tuesday. The document claims that Twitter does not block accounts until 24 hours after receiving the first order, and a Twitter attorney did so just minutes before a meeting with government officials on Tuesday.

“It is clear that offensive tweets / hashtags remain in the public domain and of course the risk and expense of public order and the risk of provoking the criminal commission have been retweeted and retweeted several times,” the notice said.

Twitter also sent a response to the government after a meeting with officials who refused to “obey and comply” with the government’s order, the statement said. The notice under Indian law states that Twitter is bound to abide by it.

The government also backtracked on Twitter’s “free speech” argument, saying the agency had “no constitutional, statutory or legal basis” to interpret freedom of speech under Indian law.

Twitter also argued that there was “not enough support” to block entire accounts and said the government should have ordered the blocking of individual tweets. In response, the government notice said that Twitter was not the place for the government to seek justice.

At the heart of the legal order is Article A9A, an article in India’s IT laws that allows the federal government to block platforms such as Twitter as “any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted on a computer resource” order that could “disrupt the public”. These orders are not required to be complied with, but they are publicly deprived of the orders themselves.

“I hope this case goes to court,” said Pahwa, founder of Mediama, because I believe the government can reasonably lose the case. “

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