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Twitter launches legal challenge in India over orders to block content

Twitter has launched its first legal challenge to the Indian government over formal orders to take down content. The social media company has had a tough time in India since last year, spending months locked in a high-stakes standoff with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over freedom of speech. At one point, the company even became the target of a handful of police investigations. Twitter called them “bullying tactics” and said it was “concerned” for the safety of its workers in the country. However, to the dismay of free speech activists, he chose not to take legal action against the government. Until now. The San Francisco-based company filed the petition before the Supreme Court of Karnataka, a state in southwestern India, on Tuesday according to a filing reviewed online by CNN Business. Twitter declined to comment on the case. But a source who cognizant of the filing said the company has decided to challenge some of the government’s orders as they “demonstrate excessive use of powers and are disproportionate.” In the past, authorities have asked Twitter to remove posts critical of the Modi government, including its handling of the country’s brutal second wave of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.” services to comply with its censorship,” Raman Jit said. Singh Chima, senior international adviser and director of Asia-Pacific policy at digital rights group Access.Now.Chima and other free speech advocates have accused the government of trying to censor journalists, protest groups and opposition MPs with the blocking orders , which are rarely made public.”Today, Twitter is standing up for the public and doing what the government should do: to protect our rights,” added India’s technology ministry threatened Twitter last month with “severe consequences,” including the initiation of criminal proceedings against its executives, if e match did not comply with the service’s orders to remove certain tweets and block accounts. Although the company has currently blocked access to the content in India, it is seeking a judicial review of some of the orders. The company believes they violate the country’s technology laws and threaten free speech, according to the source. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology did not respond to a request for comment. But India’s junior IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in a tweet on Tuesday that foreign internet platforms “have a right to court and judicial review” in India, without mentioning Twitter. He added that all platforms operating in the country “have a clear obligation to comply with our laws and rules.” High-stakes divestment The lawsuit by Twitter is the latest row in an increasingly contentious relationship between Silicon Valley tech companies and a from their biggest markets. India’s ruling party has stepped up its crackdown on social media and messaging apps since last year. U.S. tech companies repeatedly raised fears last year that the country’s tech rules could erode privacy, usher in the mass surveillance and harm businesses in the world’s fastest-growing digital market. India says it is trying to maintain national security. The rules, issued in February 2021, include requirements for tech companies to set up dedicated compliance officers in India. There are also from requests that the Services remove some content, including posts that feature “full or partial nudity.” In addition, the technology platforms will have to identify the “original creator” of the messages if requested by the authorities. That demand forced WhatsApp – which, like Facebook, is owned by Meta – to file a legal complaint against the government in May last year. WhatsApp said the demand would break the platform’s “end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermine people’s right to privacy”. Technology early last year on bills the agency wanted scrapped during a series of protests by farmers. Twitter complied with some of the requests, but declined to take action against the accounts of journalists, activists or politicians. Twitter also raised concerns about IT rules last year and said it plans to “advocate for changes to elements of those regulations that prevent free In its lawsuit this week, Twitter did not challenge India’s technology law, but said the blocking orders of the government are “disproportionate in several cases,” according to the source. India’s free speech activists welcomed the move on Tuesday. Many of them had said last year they felt frustrated by Twitter’s inability to take a firm stand against the government .In a tweet on Tuesday, Nikhil Pahwa, founder of Delhi-based tech website MediaNama, said “congratulations to Twitter for finally standing up for their users’ rights.” “Of course, you can say that foreign companies have no obligation to defend our rights,” he added. “That’s right. But the legal process is burdensome, expensive and time-consuming. I can’t afford it. Neither can you. They can.”

Twitter has made its first legal challenge to the Indian government over official orders to take down content.

The social media company has had a tough time in India since last year, spending months locked in a high-stakes standoff with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over freedom of speech.

At one point, the company even became the target of a handful of police investigations. Twitter called them “bullying tactics” and said it was “concerned” for the safety of its workers in the country. But to the dismay of free speech activists, he chose not to take legal action against the government.

So far.

The San Francisco-based company filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Karnataka, a state in southwestern India, on Tuesday, according to a filing reviewed online by CNN Business.

Twitter declined to comment on the case.

However, a source familiar with the filing said the company had decided to challenge some of the government’s orders as they “demonstrate excessive use of powers and are disproportionate”.

In the past, authorities have asked Twitter to remove posts critical of the Modi government, including its handling of the country’s brutal second wave of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.

“Authorities target people for content posted online and routinely bully web platforms and social media services into complying with censorship,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, senior international advisor and Asia Pacific policy director at the Digital Rights Group Access Now.

Chima and other free speech advocates have accused the government of trying to censor journalists, protest groups and opposition lawmakers with the blocking orders, which are rarely made public.

“Today, Twitter is standing up for the public and doing what government should be doing: protecting our rights,” he added.

India’s technology ministry threatened Twitter last month with “severe consequences,” including criminal proceedings against its executives, if the company did not comply with the agency’s orders to remove certain tweets and block accounts, the source said.

While the company has currently blocked access to the content in India, it is seeking a judicial review of some of the orders. The company believes they violate the country’s technology laws and threaten free speech, according to the source.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology did not respond to a request for comment. But India’s junior IT minister, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, told one tweet on Tuesday that foreign online platforms “have [a] right to court and judicial review,” in India, without citing Twitter.

He added that all platforms operating in the country “have [an] unquestionable obligation to comply with our laws and rules.”

High stakes showdown

The lawsuit by Twitter is the latest row in an increasingly contentious relationship between Silicon Valley tech companies and one of their biggest markets. India’s ruling party has stepped up its crackdown on social media and messaging apps since last year.

U.S. technology companies repeatedly raised fears last year that the country’s technology rules could erode privacy, lead to mass surveillance and hurt businesses in the world’s fastest-growing digital market. India says it is trying to maintain national security.

The rules, issued in February 2021, include requirements for tech companies to set up dedicated compliance officers in India. There are also requirements that services remove some content, including posts that include “full or partial nudity.”

In addition, technology platforms should identify the “original creator” of the messages if requested by the authorities. That demand forced WhatsApp – which, like Facebook, is owned by Meta – to file a legal complaint against the government in May last year. WhatsApp said the requirement would break the platform’s “end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermine people’s right to privacy.”

The case is pending, a company spokesperson told CNN Business on Wednesday.

Twitter previously clashed with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology early last year over accounts the agency wanted removed during a series of protests by farmers. Twitter complied with some of the requests, but declined to take action against the accounts of journalists, activists or politicians.

Twitter also raised concerns about IT rules last year and said it plans to “advocate for changes to elements of these regulations that impede free, open public debate.”

In its lawsuit this week, Twitter did not challenge India’s technology law, but said the government’s blocking orders are “disproportionate in several cases,” according to the source.

India’s free speech activists welcomed the move on Tuesday. Many of them said last year they felt frustrated by Twitter’s inability to take a firm stand against the government.

In a tweet on TuesdayNikhil Pahwa, founder of Delhi-based tech website MediaNama, said “congratulations to Twitter for finally standing up for its users’ rights.”

“Of course, you can say that foreign companies have no obligation to defend our rights,” he added. “That’s right. But the legal process is burdensome, expensive and time-consuming. I can’t afford it. Neither can you. They can.”

Twitter launches legal challenge in India over orders to block content Source link Twitter launches legal challenge in India over orders to block content

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