The Indian government on Wednesday (10 February) expressed displeasure over Twitter's delayed compliance on its order to remove "provocative" tweets amid the ongoing farmers' protests.
IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney expressed Centre's displeasure to Twitter's management.
An official statement issued on late Wednesday night said the Secretary told Monique Meche, Vice President, Global Public Policy and Jim Baker, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President Legal of Twitter that delayed compliance to lawfully passed orders are "meaningless".
He further highlighted that Twitter is welcome to do business in India and has grown significantly in the country due to India’s conducive business environment, open Internet and firm commitment to the freedom of expression.
"Twitter is free to formulate its own rules and guidelines, like any other business entity does, but Indian laws which are enacted by the Parliament of India must be followed irrespective of Twitter’s own rules and guidelines," Sawhney was quoted as saying in the statement.
Expressing dissatisfaction over Twitter’s differential treatment to events in US and India, Sawhney reminded Twitter about the action taken by the micro-blogging site during the Capitol Hill episode and compared that with the disturbance in Red Fort in India and its aftermath.
"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 said.
He also mentioned that revelations around a certain “Toolkit” has made it evident that a strong social media campaign was planned in a foreign country around farmers protest.
"Misuse of Twitter’s platform for execution of such campaigns designed to create disharmony and unrest in India is unacceptable and Twitter must take strong action against such well-coordinated campaigns against India, through compliance with the applicable law of the land," the statement added.
"Lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity. They must be obeyed immediately. If they are executed days later, it becomes meaningless," Sawhney said.
The official 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, the statement said.
He also told 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, he said.
Sawhney told the Twitter representatives that in India: "We value freedom and we value criticism because it is part of our democracy."
However, he added that freedom of expression is not absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions as mentioned in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India.
In view of the order issued by the Centre directing Twitter to remove Tweets and accounts using hashtag related to 'farmer genocide' and accounts supported by 'Khalistan sympathisers and backed by Pakistan' and blog post issued by Twitter earlier on Wednesday, the meeting took place as per schedule, said the statement.
The development comes after Twitter initially did not comply to the government's order on removing tweets and accounts talking of 'farmer genocide'.
The government further conveyed to the Twitter leadership that the manner in which the platform 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 said the Twitter leadership affirmed their commitment towards following Indian laws and rules.
They also expressed their continuing commitment towards building their services in India. They have also requested for better engagement between the government and Twitter's global team, said the statement.
(With inputs from IANS)
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