Twitter sues Indian government in pushback against orders to remove content

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Twitter filed a lawsuit against the Indian government on Tuesday, pushing back against orders to censor content on its platform.

The lawsuit, filed in the Karnataka High Court against the Union Government of India, listed Twitter Inc. as the petitioner.

The news, first reported by Reuters, cited a source familiar with the matter and added that the social media giant’s legal challenge alleges abuse of power by officials.

India’s Information and Technology Ministry had asked the social media platform to take down multiple accounts and tweets that were noncompliant with its new laws that allow the government to block access to content in the interest of national security.

The government had recently demanded the U.S.-based company take down tweets from Indian journalist Rana Ayyub, who is critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.

Twitter also sent a notice to Indian journalist Mohammed Zubair, who was recently arrested over his tweets, and said that the Indian government had sent a notice saying his account violates the laws of the country.

Opponents of Modi’s government have accused his administration of using India’s laws to clamp down on dissent and criticism.

U.S.-based pro-democracy organization Freedom House recently expressed concern that the Indian government ordered Twitter to restrict its tweets and said that Internet freedom in India weakened for a fourth straight year in 2021.

IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said at a press conference Tuesday that it’s important to hold social media companies “accountable” and that they should “self-regulate harmful” content.

He added that, “Be it any company, in any sector, they should abide the laws of India. This is the responsibility of everyone to abide by the laws passed by the Parliament.”

In a response to a request for comment on its lawsuit against the Indian government, a Twitter spokesperson told The Hill that the company has “nothing to add on the matter.”

Last year, Twitter suspended more than 500 accounts on the orders of the Modi administration, but ultimately restored them after public outcry.

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