Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder, says India — despite its status as the world’s largest democracy — regularly issued requests for the social media giant to remove certain posts and accounts, often accompanying these demands with threats of legal repercussions in cases of noncompliance.
“India is one of the countries which had many requests around farmers protests, around particular journalists which were critical of the government,” said Dorsey.
In early 2021, Twitter was ordered to suspend hundreds of accounts and curtail the visibility of certain hashtags in India, after the Indian government issued threats of legal action against the US-based social media company. It was noted that the lion’s share of accounts earmarked for suspension had voiced support for farmers’ protests against newly proposed legislation.
The orders from the Indian government “manifested in ways such as ‘we will shut Twitter down in India’… ‘we would raid the homes of your employees’, which they did; ‘we will shut down your offices if you don’t follow suit’. And this is India, a democratic country,” said Dorsey in an interview with Breaking Points.
Twitter once vigorously resisted government directives to remove posts or suspend accounts. In fact, the company notably sued the Indian government to contest several of the imposed block orders on tweets and accounts.
Twitter, compared to its American counterparts, exhibited a more protracted timeline in complying with India’s newly enacted IT regulations. These rules necessitate firms to nominate and disclose contact information for representatives responsible for regulatory compliance, a nodal point of reference, and grievance redressal to manage local concerns.
Amid the noncompliance with these new regulations in 2021, a special unit of the Delhi Police made surprise visits to two of Twitter’s offices in the country. At the time, Twitter expressed its apprehension, stating it was “concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve.”
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the federal deputy minister for information technology in India, refuted Dorsey’s remarks and alleged that the Twitter co-founder, who previously served as its chief executive, is attempting to “brush out that very dubious period of Twitter’s history.”
Twitter under Dorsey and his team “were in repeated and continuous violations of India law,” Chandrasekhar said. “As a matter of fact they were in non-compliance with law repeatedly from 2020 to 2022 and it was only June 2022 when they finally complied. No one went to jail nor was Twitter ‘shutdown.’ Dorsey’s Twitter regime had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law.
“It behaved as if the laws of India did not apply to it. India as a sovereign nation has the right to ensure that its laws are followed by all companies operating in India. During the protests in January 2021, there was a lot of misinformation and even reports of genocide which were definitely fake. Government of India was obligated to remove misinformation from the platform because it had the potential to further inflame the situation based on fake news.”