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India’s Modi government threatens Twitter employees to jail

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The Indian government threatened to impose fines and imprisonment of up to 7 years on Twitter employees to impose fines. Recover hundreds of accounts It has ordered the company to block. Most reports criticized the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Narendra Modi).

On Monday, Twitter complied with government orders and prevented Indians from viewing more than 250 accounts of activists, political commentators, movie stars, and investigative news magazine Caravan. Most reports criticized the Indian nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. However, about six hours after the Twitter lawyer met with IT department officials, the company restored the accounts and argued that these tweets and accounts constituted freedom of speech and were newsworthy.

The Indian government disagrees. On Tuesday, the IT department sent a notice to Twitter, ordering it to block the account again. It also threatens to face legal consequences for those working in Twitter’s India branch, which may include fines and up to 7 years in prison.

“This is really problematic,” said Nikhil Pahwa, editor of the technology policy website MediaNama. “I don’t know why the Indian government would intervene in this area of ​​trying to censor tweets when there are bigger issues to deal with.”

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment. A spokesperson for the IT department did not respond to a request for comment.

This move put the company in trouble. Blocking accounts again would mean being accused of playing an active role in India’s continued suppression of dissidents, as anti-government protests have left India turbulent. However, keeping accounts on the platform means risking political and legal showdowns in major markets.

The government said in a notice issued on Tuesday that these accounts “spread misinformation about the protests” and “may lead to imminent violence that affects public order in the country.” BuzzFeed News has reviewed a copy of the notice.

A few days ago, thousands of Indian farmers protested against agricultural reforms for months. They said it would damage their incomes, broke through the police roadblocks, and stormed into the Mughal era in New Delhi on January 26. Monument of the Red Fort. , Indian Republic Day.At least one protester It is said that Dead Delhi police be rejected They participate in the event.

The government claimed in the notice that the labels used on these accounts were “found inciting people to commit identifiable crimes related to public order and national security.”

Although the caravan caravan did not use the label, the government claimed that “news and news reports” spread wrong information, leading to “inciting the people” and creating a “public order situation.”

A spokesperson for the caravan told BuzzFeed News that its news coverage is fair and professional. The magazine’s executive editor, Vinod K. Jose, told BuzzFeed News: “We don’t understand why the Indian government suddenly discovered that journalists should not speak on all aspects of an issue.”

Indian law prohibits Twitter from sharing the legal order it received on Monday, but according to the government’s notice on Tuesday, the company fought back. The document claimed that Twitter did not block the account until 24 hours after receiving the first order, and did not do so for a few minutes before the Twitter lawyer met with government officials on Tuesday.

The notice read: “Obviously, the tweets/hashtags in question are still in the public domain and must be tweeted and re-tweeted many times, but the risks and costs of doing so are public order and incitement to crime risks of.”

According to the notice, Twitter also responded to the government after meeting with officials who refused to “comply and obey” government orders. The notice says that according to Indian law, Twitter must abide by it.

The government also opposed Twitter’s “freedom of speech” argument, saying that the company has no “constitutional, statutory or any legal basis” to explain what constitutes freedom of speech under Indian law.

Twitter also argued that there was “not enough reason” to block the entire account and said the government should order the blocking of individual tweets. In response, the government notice stated that this is not the place for Twitter to seek reasons from the government.

The core of the legal order is section 69A, which is a clause in Indian IT law that allows the federal government to require platforms such as Twitter to retain “anything that may be generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource. Information”, which may disrupt “public orders.” Platforms such as Twitter not only need to comply with these orders, but also do not allow themselves to disclose these orders.

Pahwa, the founder of MediaNama, said: “I hope that this case will be filed because I do think that, rationally speaking, the government is likely to lose the case.”

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