Government directs Twitter to remove objectionable content; warns of penal action in case of non-compliance

The notice issued by the government to Twitter stated some of the hashtags on the social media platform were highly objectionable and designed to inflame hatred.
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The government has directed micro-blogging site Twitter to remove certain objectionable content on its platform and warned that the failure to comply with the order may invite penal action.

The notice, issued by the government, asked Twitter to comply with its order to remove contents/accounts related to farmer genocide.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology sent the notice to Twitter on January 31, 2021, as a matter of emergency blocking of 257 URLs and one hashtag under Section 69 A of the Information Technology Act 2000.

The main objection of the government was the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide that was posted on Twitter.

The government said it was designed to inflame passions, hatred, and was factually incorrect.

The said interim order was issued on the ground that the said Twitter URLs and hashtag are spreading misinformation about protests and has the potential to lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country,” the notice said.

The government also reminded Twitter about the situation in Delhi due to the protests that resulted in major disturbance of public order on January 26.

“The statutory authorities are doing everything possible to ensure that no adverse public order situation takes place and no cognisable offences are committed,” the notice said.

Twitter was also reminded by the government that it had unilaterally unblocked accounts/tweets despite its order for blocking.

The notice said there is a motivated campaign to abuse, inflame and create tension in the society on unsubstantiated grounds. “Incitement to genocide is not freedom of speech; it is a threat to law & order,” the government said.

The government also reminded Twitter that is an intermediary and obliged to obey the directions of the government. It also bought forth the argument that there are more than half a dozen Supreme Court judgements on what constitutes public order and what are the rights of the authorities.

“Twitter cannot sit as an appellate authority over the satisfaction of the authorities about its potential impact on derailing public order,” the notice.

The government also warned Twitter that Section 69A(3) of the Information Technology Act provides for specific penal consequences in case of non-compliance of the directions issued.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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