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Top Twitter Officials in India May Face Arrest for Non-Compliance with Govt's Notice to Block Accounts

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Twitter’s plea for a meeting with communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was turned down and the government did not take kindly to Twitter going public.

The Centre may arrest Twitter's top executives in India stating that its list of accounts sought to be censured over “inflammatory content” was not negotiable.

The government added that its "patience is running out" over refusal of the company to follow the earlier notice given under Section 69A of the IT Act, Times of India reported.

India had 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."

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Also read: After Centre's Warning, Twitter Blocks Accounts with 'Khalistani' Links But Adds 'Free Speech' Rider

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.

The report added that the US micro-blogging giant, which partially followed the order by taking down around half of the accounts sought to be blocked by the government, may now approach the courts as it holds ground in the defence of “right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve”.

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.

Also read: Govt Asks Twitter to Block 1,178 More Accounts With 'Khalistani' Links, Unhappy with Founder Taking Sides

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. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law,” it said.

Twitter’s plea for a meeting with communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was turned down and the government did not take kindly to Twitter going public.

“Upon the request of Twitter seeking a meeting with the government, Secretary Sawhney was to engage with senior management of Twitter. In this light a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusual,” the IT ministry said on Koo, a newly launched Indian social media app.

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

first published:February 11, 2021, 08:20 IST