Twitter Non-Compliant by Habit, Center tells Karnataka HC as it Defends Blocking Orders

Tanisha Rana

Published on: September 2, 2022 at 23:09 IST

The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MEITY) banning orders were challenged by microblogging site Twitter, and the Central government responded to that request on Wednesday.

According to the affidavit submitted by the Centre, the directives to ban certain Twitter accounts were made in the interest of the country and the people, as well as to stop lynching and mob violence.

The government emphasised that it is dedicated to giving its citizens access to an open, safe, trusted, and responsible internet and that the scope of its authority to prohibit content is constrained.

Hence such directions issued are purely in the national and public interest to prevent any threats to the country or public order issues or violence across the country, including incidents of lynching or mob violence, the affidavit stated.

Additionally, the affidavit claimed that social media sites like Twitter were not doing enough to stop the dissemination of purposeful disinformation or false news.

It was claimed that as a result, such platforms are being abused by anti-Indian groups and foreign foes for anti-India propaganda on a national and international level to sow discord and chaos in the nation.

The administration said that it is crucial to identify and stop such disinformation at its source.

The affidavit was submitted in response to Twitter’s petition challenging ten blocking orders that the government issued between February 2021 and February 2022 instructing the microblogging site to suspend various accounts and prevent access to certain material.

Twitter said that account-level banning is an excessive step that infringes on users’ constitutional rights in its appeal to the High Court.

On July 26, 2022, the High Court requested the Central Government’s response to the plea.

Primary Reasons Cited by the Central Government

  • Regular Disregard for the Law on Twitter

According to the affidavit submitted by the Central government, Twitter ignored the government’s blocking instructions on a regular basis for years before responding to warnings and show-cause orders.

The blocking orders have been purposefully delayed by the petitioner (some directives have been delayed for more than a year), according to the affidavit, in order to make the content covered by Section 69A more viral and spread to other platforms.

It was said that the petitioner had adopted a strategic plan to initially postpone compliance, comply promptly after receiving a show-cause notice, and then immediately file a petition for court protection.

  • Why it is Not Wise to Notify Consumers Under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act

According to the affidavit, the majority of the offensive material has the potential to threaten public order or impact national security, including anti-Indian, seditious, and religious material.

Therefore, alerting people via alerts would just make things worse since they would either try to remain anonymous or share more stuff.

  • Twitter Itself is a Censorship and Expression-Infringing Platform

According to the affidavit, Twitter suspends material globally for breaking its own rules without giving users a heads-up or a chance to make amends, infringing on their right to free speech and expression.

  • Judicial Defamation

Additionally, it was argued that while fair criticism is permitted in a democracy, suggestive remarks sometimes take the shape of tweets and other information on Twitter and are related to sensitive topics as well as the courts.

Due to its strict character code, “the petitioner, unlike other social media platforms, has a strong potential to manufacture and propagate misinformation,” it said.

  • Not Maintainable

According to Indian law, Twitter is neither a natural person or even an artificial person, hence it is inappropriate for Twitter to assert rights under Articles 19, 14, or 21. This raises another pertinent issue with the government’s assertion that the petition is not maintainable.

The affidavit claimed that the petition was just a “chance or luxury lawsuit” in which the Court’s authority was secretly used to accomplish a goal when it was unable to do so directly.

The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for September 8, 2022.

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