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Comparing Capitol Riot, R-day Violence, Centre's Warning to Twitter on Blocking Accounts

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The IT ministry secretary reminded Twitter about the action taken by Twitter during the Capitol Hill episode in the USA and compared that with the disturbance in Red Fort in India and its aftermath. He expressed dissatisfaction over Twitter's differential treatment in the two incidents.

India rebuked Twitter on Wednesday for not complying with its orders to take down certain content and warned the social media giant that it needs to obey local laws, even as Indian lawmakers urged their followers to switch to home-grown rival Koo.

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, in a statement, said, "Secretary expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about the manner in which Twitter has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order. He took this opportunity to remind Twitter that in India, its Constitution and laws are supreme. It is expected that responsible entities not only reaffirm but remain committed to compliance to the law of land."

The statement came after the IT ministry secretary held a virtual meeting with Twitter Vice President Global Public Policy Monique Meche and Deputy General Counsel and Vice President Legal Jim Baker.

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The government conveyed to the Twitter leadership that the "manner in which Twitter officially allows fake, unverified, anonymous and automated bot accounts to be operated on its platform, raises doubts about its commitment to transparency and healthy conversation on this platform".

The IT ministry secretary reminded Twitter about the action taken by Twitter during the Capitol Hill episode in the USA and compared that with the disturbance in Red Fort in India and its aftermath. He expressed dissatisfaction over Twitter's differential treatment in the two incidents.

"Despite the attention of Twitter being drawn to such content by the Government through a lawful process, the platform allowed the content with this hashtag to continue, which was extremely unfortunate. A deep sense of disappointment at seeing Twitter side not with ‘freedom of expression’ but rather with those who seek to abuse such freedom and provoke disturbance to public order, was conveyed to the Twitter representative," the statement further read.

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India has ordered Twitter to remove more than 1,100 accounts and posts that it alleges are spreading misinformation about the widespread protests by Indian farmers against new agricultural laws.

Twitter Inc riled Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government earlier on Wednesday, after it said in a public blog post that it had not fully complied with the government's order because it believed some of the take-down orders were not consistent with Indian law.

"In keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians," it said.

The IT Ministry, via a post on rival platform Koo, said late on Wednesday that its top official had on a call with some of Twitter's top executives expressed "strong displeasure" with Twitter's actions.

"Twitter is free to formulate its own rules and guidelines," the government said. "But Indian laws which are enacted by the Parliament of India must be followed irrespective of Twitter's own rules and guidelines."

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment on the meeting with the IT ministry.

Twitter's moves to defy India's orders have put the company and its executives at the centre of a political firestorm. New Delhi has previously threatened legal action which could result in fines or imprisonment for Twitter executives responsible for implementing government directives.

It also comes after Twitter's top lobbyist in India, Mahima Kaul, resigned while the company scrambles to contain a growing public relations crisis.

Public opinion in one of Twitter's key markets is split. Some lawyers say Twitter must comply or challenge the order in court while activists blame the government for using legal provisions to curb free speech.

I'M ON KOO!

Earlier on Wednesday, Twitter said following government orders it permanently suspended over 500 accounts for engaging in platform manipulation and spam. For many others, it only restricted access within India and their tweets can still be read abroad.

For Twitter, the stakes are high in India, where it had 17.5 million users as of last month, according to German database firm Statista. It is also ardently used by Modi, his Cabinet ministers and other leaders to communicate with the public.

As the row takes a toll on Twitter, many Indian politicians and users are joining the home-grown Twitter-like social media platform Koo, which was launched last year.

#kooapp was the top Twitter trend in India on Wednesday with nearly 21,000 posts, followed by #BanTwitter.

Twitter declined to comment about some users migrating to Koo. Several people on Twitter, including Trade Minister Piyush Goyal, have posted tweets this week saying "I am now on Koo". Goyal, who has 9.6 million Twitter followers, has a pinned tweet asking people to connect with him on the rival Indian platform.

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Sambit Patra, a national spokesman for Modi's ruling party, and its head of IT Amit Malviya also joined Koo on Wednesday.

Koo, which has a yellow bird as its logo, said downloads have surged 10-fold in the past two days to over 3 million. "The last 48 hours has seen the largest number of sign-ups," Koo's co-founder Mayank Bidawatka told Reuters. "I've slept for two hours in last few days."