NEW DELHI began in February with a tweet by pop star Rihanna that sparked widespread condemnation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of massive farmer protests near the capital, souring an already troubled relationship between the. To contain the backlash, officials hit of the government. Twitter complied with some and resisted others. Relations between Twitter and have gone downhill ever since.
A sweeping internet law putslike Twitter and Facebook under direct government oversight at the heart of the standoff. the rules are needed to quell misinformation and hate speech and give users more power to flag objectionable content. Critics of the law worry it may where digital freedoms have been bshrunksince Modi took office in 2014. and have accused its India chief, Manish Maheshwari, of spreading “communal hatred” and “hurting the sentiments of Indians.” Last week, Maheshwari refused to submit to questioning unless police promised not to arrest him.
On Wednesday, the company released a transparency report showing India had submitted most government information requests — legal demands for account information — to Twitter. It accounted for a quarter of worldwide requests in July- December last year. It was the first time since in 2012 that the U.S. was displaced as the “top global requester,” it added. “India’s plans for the appear to be like that of a closed ecosystem like China,” said Raheel Khursheed, co-founder of Laminar Global and Twitter India’s former head of Politics, Policy, and Government. “Twitter’s case is the basis of a touchstone on how the future of the internet will be shaped in India.”
China has been aggressively tightening controls on access to its 1.4 billion-strong market, which is aequestered mainly by the Communist Party’s Great Firewall and U.S. trade and technology sanctions. India is another heavyweight, with 900 expected by 2025. “Any in terms of scale. Because of this, the option of leaving India is like the button they’d press if they had no options left,” said tech analyst Jayanth Kolla.are facing similar challenges in many countries.
The new rules, in the works, for years and announced in February, apply tocompanies, streaming platforms, and digital news publishers. They make it easier for the government to order with over 5 million users to take down content that is deemed unlawful. Individuals can now request that companies remove material. If a government ministry flags , it must be removed within 36 hours. Tech companies must also assign staff to answer user complaints, respond to government requests, and ensure oompliance with the rules. Noncompliance could lead to criminal prosecutions.
Twitter missed a three-month deadline in May, drawing a strong rebuke from the Internet Freedom Foundation, worries thatthe rules will lead to numerous cases against internet platforms and deter people from using them freely, leading to self-censorship. Many other Modi’s Hindu nationalist government is imposing a climate of “digital authoritarianism.”. Last week, after months of haggling with the government, it appointed all three officers as required. “Twitter continues to try to comply with the new IT Rules 2021. We have kept the at every step of the process,” the company said in a statement to the Associated Press. Apar Gupta, executive director of the
“If it becomes easier for user content to be taken down, it will amount to the chilling of speech online,” Gupta said. The. “Social media users can criticize Narendra Modi, theycan criticize government policy and ask questions. I must put it on the record straight away . . . But a sitting in America should refrain from lecturing us on democracy” when it denies its users the right to redress, the ex-IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, told the newspaper The Hindu last month. Bharatiya Janata Party’s social media team has been accused of initiating online attacks against critics of Modi.
Despite the antagonisms between Modi and Twitter, he has been an enthusiastic platform user in building popular support for his Bharatiya Janata Party. His government has also worked closely with the social media giant to allow Indians to use Twitter to seek help from government ministries, particularly during health emergencies.
Still, earlier internet restrictions had already prompted the Washington-based Freedom House to list India, the world’s most populous democracy, as “partly free” instead of “free” in its annual analysis. The law announced in February requires tech companies to aid police investigations and help identify people who post “mischievous information.” That means messages must be traceable, and experts say this could mean end-to-end encryption would not be allowed in India. Facebook’s WhatsApp, which has more than 500 million users in India, has sued the government, saying breaking encryption, which continues for now, would “severely undermine the
Officials say they only want to trace messages that incite violence or. WhatsApp says it can’t selectively do that. “It is like you are renting out an apartment to someone but want to look into it whenever you want. Who would want to live in a house like that?” said Khursheed of Laminar Global. The backlash over online freedom of expression, privacy, and security concerns comes amid a for more data transparency and localization, said Kolla, the tech expert. Germany requires to curbing hate speech. Countries like Vietnam and .
In Turkey, social media companies complied with a broad mandate foronly after they were fined and faced threats to their ad revenues. Instead of leaving, some companies are fighting the new , where anews publishers, media associations, and individuals have filed at least 13 legal challenges But such cases can stretch for months or even years. Mishi Choudhary, a technology lawyer and founder of India’s Software Freedom Law Center, says that under the rules, social media platforms might lose their protection, which shields them from legal liability over user-generated content. Courts have to decide that on a case-by-case basis, she said. And their legal costs would inevitably soar. “You know how it is in India. The process is the punishment,” Choudhary said. “And until we get to a place where the courts will acomeand tell us what the legal position is and determine those legal positions, it is for tech backlash.”