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NEW DELHI: The authorities on Wednesday warned Twitter to both observe its orders concerning elimination of “inflammatory content” on farmers’ protests, or be able to face jail and monetary penalty.
The motion, beneath the IT Act Section 69A (three), may lead to as much as seven years jail for senior Twitter India officers, and a monetary penalty on the agency.
The authorities issued the ultimatum after Twitter refused to adjust to its request to dam 257 accounts that had used the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide. The firm had initially “withheld” the accounts, however later unblocked them, citing “free speech” and “newsworthy” content material.
The accounts which had allegedly used the ‘inflammatory’ hashtag included Kisan Ekta Morcha (@Kisanektamorcha), BKU Ekta Ugrahan (@Bkuektaugrahan), Caravan journal (@thecaravanindia), CPM chief Mohammad Salim (@salimdotcomrade) and activist Hansraj Meena (@HansrajMeena).
An offended IT ministry, headed by Ravi Shankar Prasad, hit again on Wednesday, warning the corporate to adjust to its directions — which, it mentioned, had been given conserving public order in thoughts and to be able to diffuse rigidity and hatred.
“Twitter is an intermediary and they are obliged to obey directions of the government. Refusal to do so will invite penal action,” the IT ministry mentioned in a discover despatched to the corporate, in response to sources. It added that “motivated campaigns” and the hashtag had been being run to “abuse, inflame and create tension in society on unsubstantiated grounds”.
“Incitement to genocide is not freedom of speech; It is threat to law and order. Delhi had witnessed violence on Republic Day,” the discover mentioned, whereas reiterating its request to dam the accounts.
“Twitter cannot sit as an appellate authority over the satisfaction of the authorities about its potential impact on derailing public order. It cannot assume the role of court and justify non-compliance,” the discover mentioned. It additionally quoted greater than half a dozen Supreme Court judgments, “including of Constitutional benches” on what constitutes public order and the rights of authorities.
When contacted over telephone, a spokesperson for Twitter refused to touch upon the matter.
The authorities had initially requested the corporate to dam 257 URLs and the disputed hashtag on January 31 beneath Section 69A of the IT Act, saying they had been “spreading misinformation about protests and has the potential to lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country”.
The discover additional mentioned that Twitter solely blocked these accounts on the following day (February 1, 2021) for a couple of minutes earlier than it allowed them again on the grounds of freedom of speech as their advocate made a case earlier than a authorities committee at 3pm.
“It is thus clear that the offending tweets/hashtag remained in public domain and must have been tweeted and re-tweeted several times at the risk and cost of public order and at the risk of incitement to the commission of offences,” the discover mentioned, including that it’s in receipt of the corporate’s reply the place it has “declined to abide and obey” the order.
The discover mentioned that Section 69A of the IT Act supplies jurisdiction to the federal government to direct an middleman to dam public entry to any info generated, transmitted, obtained, saved or hosted in any laptop useful resource if the identical is critical or expedient to be able to stop incitement to the fee of any cognizable offence referring to public order.
“It may be noted that as per the relevant provisions of Indian law, the intermediary is bound to comply with the order of the designated officer authorised by the Centre, and in case of non-compliance, statutory consequences shall follow,” it mentioned.
With regard to Twitter citing proper to freedom of speech, the discover mentioned the corporate has “no constitutional, statutory or any legal basis whatsoever to comment upon the interplay of statutory provisions with constitutional principles or to unilaterally read down the scope of statutory provisions as per its own understanding of the constitutional and statutory laws of India”.

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