Twitter is officially pushing back against New Delhi.
The San Francisco-based microblogging website approached the Karnataka high court on Tuesday (July 5) to overturn orders issued by the Indian authorities to remove content from its platform, Reuters reported. Twitter worries blocking political content posted by official handles of political parties amounts to a violation of freedom of speech, among other things.
In a tweet hours after Twitter’s legal move, junior IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said, without naming names, that foreign firms can approach the courts, but they are not exempt from local laws.
The misuse of laws by the government, though, is something Twitter has always taken issue with.
Twitter’s tussle with the Narendra Modi government
The microblogging site has been at loggerheads with the Narendra Modi government for years over content takedown requests. While it has honoured some requests—like by withholding accounts from Pakistan and those of Sikh NGO heads and rappers recently—it has also resisted taking down tweets and accounts discussing farmer protests or covid-19 mismanagement.
The government hasn’t taken the defiance kindly. It has often threatened Twitter officials with jail time for non-compliance. July 4 was apparently the company’s “one last opportunity” to comply with a number of blocking orders. The alternative was the risk of losing intermediary status, taking away Twitter’s third-party position and holding it responsible for every tweet.
Besides putting the fear of criminality, Modi’s cabinet has also tried to promote other platforms to weaken Twitter’s reach.
Last year, several prominent leaders migrated to a rival homegrown app, Koo—India’s Parler—and asked followers to follow suit. That didn’t work too well. Koo has around 8 million users now, but Twitter still has three times as many.