The government’s demand for wholesale blocking of accounts would affect Twitter's business: Advocate Arvind Datar
The government’s orders also had tweets that were justifiable to be blocked, but the platform’s fight is about following the procedure and issuing notices before blocking tweets: Twitter
Twitter had moved the court in July this year against some of the government orders to block accounts, URLs, and tweets
Microblogging platform Twitter, which is involved in a legal battle with the Centre on some of the take down orders issued by it, on Monday (September 26) told the Karnataka High Court that 50%-60% of tweets that the government asked it to block were “innocuous”.
Appearing for Twitter, senior advocate Arvind Datar told the court that the social media giant has followed the rules laid out in the Information Technology Act and that it is concerned about the government ordering blocking of full accounts instead of individual tweets, news agency PTI reported.
The microblogging platform moved the court in July, challenging the Indian government’s orders to block some accounts, URLs, and tweets. Twitter has sought a judicial review of the content take down orders citing violation of freedom of speech.
Datar contended that Twitter as a platform was affected as the Centre asked it to take down accounts without issuing notice to the alleged violators. The government’s demand for wholesale blocking of accounts would affect Twitter’s business, he said.
He also raised concern that instead of asking to block tweets deemed improper, the government told the platform to block an account as it had political content. He reportedly also gave an example from the farmers’ protest in Delhi and claimed that the government had asked to block the content on Twitter that was telecast in the news media.
“During the farmers’ protest I was told to block accounts. TV and print media are reporting. Why ask me to block accounts?” he argued.
Saying that Twitter routinely removes tweets that are not acceptable on the platform, Datar said that it also blocks tweets promoting “Khalistan”.
Besides, the government’s orders also had tweets that were justifiable to be blocked, he said. However, the platform’s fight is about following the procedure and issuing notices before blocking tweets.
Datar also cited the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Shreya Singhal vs Union of India case and said that it is mandatory to issue notice even to intermediaries like Twitter and hear them before passing blocking orders. He argued that the Centre didn’t follow the requirements under Section 69A of the IT Act.
It is pertinent to note that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had filed a 101-page statement of objection to Twitter’s petition earlier this month and called for dismissal of its plea.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for October 17.
Meanwhile, the Indian government has continued its crackdown on objectionable content. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting earlier today said that it has directed YouTube to block 45 videos from 10 channels as they were detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of the country, its security and public order, and friendly relations with foreign states.