Recent reports suggest that multiple Twitter accounts and tweets, including @Kisanektamorcha, @Tractor2twitr and @RanaAyyub, have been withheld in India. Twitter has taken action against these accounts/tweets under the Information Technology Act, 2000 in response to “legal requests” sent by the Government of India (GoI). We found 2 recent databases of the Government’s “legal requests” sent to Twitter, based on which content and accounts are being taken down. The Lumen database is a research collaborative where legal complaints and removal requests for online content are archived and analysed. Each request contains multiple accounts/tweets that have been withheld in India. Although there are large overlaps between the two documents, based on our observations, certain accounts are only listed in one document and do not currently seem to be withheld. In the interest of awareness & transparency, we released the two lists of “legal requests” (see here and here).
Citizens have the right to challenge blocking of online content, but they are unable to do so without access to these orders. We believe that not making such takedown and content restriction orders public is detrimental to institutional transparency and the fight against censorship in India. Thus, we have consistently advocated for such disclosures as they are crucial for holding the government accountable.
If you have something to say about these instances of content takedown or generally state-led censorship in India, engage here! We are more than happy to respond to any query you may have and learn from you as well. You can also find our detailed guide from July, 2021 on how to navigate social media account censorship here.
There is news that Twitter is pursuing a judicial review of such content take down notices issued by the Govt of India.
Hey, yes Twitter has reportedly moved the Karnataka HC, challenging the legality of the govt’s content takedown orders. Twitter has argued that the blocking orders:
are procedurally & substantially deficient of the Sec. 69A requirements
demonstrate excessive use of powers
fail to provide notices to the originators of the content.
Reportedly, Twitter received blocking orders on political content posted by political parties. This legal challenge follows Twitter’s actions last month withholding several tweets/ accounts in response to govt requests. The recent “legal requests” published on the Lumen database in late June, 2022 revealed that accounts/tweets withheld belonged to activists, journalists, or civil society orgs.
Twitter was also ordered in 2021 to block a large number of accounts posting content about the farmers’ protest. Twitter was also warned by the government of criminal proceedings in case of non-compliance with their orders.
Twitter complies with such blocking orders under the opaque Section 69A of the IT Act, which prevents intermediaries from disclosing any info about it. This anti-democratic practice of not disclosing the legal orders leave the users incapable of challenging blocking orders. 5/n
This legal challenge comes at a time when the MEITY is proposing amendments to the IT Rules, 2021. The draft amendments significantly increase the compliance burden on social media platforms, which may negatively impact our freedom of speech & expression!