Twitter suspends more than 500 accounts in India amid stand-off with the government

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Twitter has announced that it is suspending more than 500 accounts after receiving a notice from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). This comes just a week after Twitter was forced to withhold accounts from the Indian audience.

In a new blog post, Twitter has clarified its stance on the government's request to suspend various accounts. The company notes that it plans to work in compliance with the Indian law as well as its own Terms of Service. Moreover, Twitter noted that since 26th January 2021, the company has blocked several hashtags and tweets that were in violation of the Twitter Rules. It also took action against misinformation surrounding the farmers' protest "and prioritized labeling of Tweets that were in violation of our synthetic and manipulated media policy."

Furthermore, Twitter revealed that it has received several notices from the MeitY in the last 10 days including the ones sent on 2nd February. The company said it temporarily complied with the orders to withhold accounts but later restored access in accordance with the Indian law and notified the government. Following this, Twitter received a non-compliance notice from the government. The Indian Government noted that Twitter cannot “assume the role of a court and justify non-compliance” in India.

Twitter has also disclosed several actions it took to stop the spread of misinformation and harmful content. These actions were taken in accordance with Twitter's rules and included reducing the visibility of harmful content, taking actions against 500 accounts that violated Twitter's policies, and withholding several accounts in the country. However, the withheld accounts will still be accessible to users outside of India.

Twitter also noted that the actions they are asked to take by the government are not in accordance with the Indian law and as such, Twitter will not comply or take any action against accounts belonging to news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. The company further said that it has notified MeitY today and will continue to respectfully engage with them. Twitter ended the blog post by saying it "will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve."

Tensions between Twitter and the Indian Government are high after the company restored access to the withheld accounts, prompting the government to threaten Twitter employees in India with jail time and fines. Yesterday, Twitter issued a statement confirming that it had reached out to the Indian government for formal dialogue. The company further added that the safely of its staff is the top priority.

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