Farmers’ protest | Govt issues notice to Twitter, warns of penal action

Centre asks microblogging site to comply with its order related to removal of contents as well as accounts related to ‘farmer genocide’

The Union government has issued a notice to Twitter to comply with its order related to removal of contents as well as accounts related to ‘farmer genocide’, while warning that refusal to do so may invite penal action, The Hindu has learnt.

“The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology [MeitY] had passed an interim order dated 31.01.2021 as a matter of emergency blocking 257 URLs and 1 Hashtag under section 69 A of the Information Technology Act, 2000… on the ground that the said URLs and hashtag are spreading misinformation about protests and has the potential to lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country,” a source in the MeitY said.

Twitter unilaterally unblocked accounts/tweets despite the government order for blocking. It was an intermediary and was obliged to obey the government direction, the source stated.

“Refusal to do so may invite penal action. The government notice quotes more than half a dozen Supreme Court judgments, including of constitutional benches, as to what is public order and what are the rights of authorities. Twitter being an intermediary is obliged to obey the directions as per the satisfaction of the authorities as to which inflammatory content will arouse passion and impact public order,” the source added.

Contests order

The microblogging site on Tuesday evening restored all accounts, hours after blocking them citing “legal demand”. A source told The Hindu that the platform, in a meeting with government officials, contested the order, arguing that these accounts were “not in violation of Twitter policy”.

In the notice, the MeitY pointed out the “prevailing situation”, which resulted in a major public order issue on January 26, 2020. “The statutory authorities are doing everything possible to ensure that no adverse public order situation takes place and no cognizable offences are committed. In light of these developments and as a part of due process, and as per the settled practice, an order was passed…” the source said.

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