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The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on Thursday responded to Twitter’s statement expressing concern over the “potential threat to freedom of expression in India and intimidation tactics by the police”.

Even though it respects the right of privacy of individuals, the government highlighted that the social media giant to “stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land”. The government said it strongly controverts the claims made by Twitter in its press release.

“India has a glorious tradition of free speech and democratic practices dating back centuries,” states the Ministry. “The only instance of the scuttling of free speech on Twitter is Twitter itself and its opaque policies, as a result of which people’s accounts are suspended and tweets are deleted arbitrarily and without recourse,” states the Ministry.

In a fiery statement, the government said Twitter’s statement is an attempt to dictate its terms to the world’s largest democracy. “Through its actions and deliberate defiance, Twitter seeks to undermine India’s legal system,” states the Ministry.

Fake and harmful content

The Ministry also highlighted the dualism of Twitter in its approach to India and its citizens. Here, the Ministry pointed out the Ladakh map issue, approach to Red Fort Delhi incident, the proliferation of fake and harmful content against India, and malicious tagging of B.1.617 mutant variant as ‘Indian variant’.

Earlier during the day, Twitter said it will comply with Indian laws but was concerned by “the use of intimidation tactics by the police”.

“Lawmaking and policy formulations is the sole prerogative of the sovereign and Twitter is just a social media platform and it has no locus standi on dictating what should India’s legal policy framework be,” the government further said.

Reacting strongly to the allegations of threat to freedom of expression in India, the IT ministry said the government respects the right of people to ask questions and also criticise on the social media platforms including on Twitter.

“However, the only instance of scuttling free speech on Twitter is by Twitter itself and its opaque policies, as a result of which people’s accounts are suspended and tweets deleted arbitrarily,” states the Ministry.

Attempt to defame

The government assured representatives of social media companies including Twitter that they will always remain safe in India and there is no threat to their personal safety and security.”We condemn Twitter’s statement as baseless, false and an attempt to defame India to hide their follies.”

Twitter argued that the escalated content constituted legitimate free speech and yet, the platform was compelled to withhold in response to a non-compliance notice as not doing so poses penal consequences with many risks for Twitter employees.

The platform said it has been in regular dialogue with the IT Ministry to explain the nature of the content and why it should continue to be available on the service.

The company has urged the Ministry of Electronics and IT to publish these standard operating protocols on procedural aspects of compliance for public consultation and has sought a minimum of three months extension in order to implement the rules.

Twitter said it continues to accept grievances from users and law enforcement via its existing grievance redressal channel.

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