The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Wednesday, February 3, issued a notice to Twitter to take action against accounts posting offensive content using inappropriate hashtags against government and spreading misinformation about farmers' protest, else face penal action for the non-compliance of the order.
The ministry issued the notice after the social networking platform on Monday restored over 250 accounts it had blocked on Monday over ministry's complaint. It had directed Twitter to withhold the accounts and posts that used the hashtag #Modiplanningfarmergenocide.
In its 5-page notice, the ministry stated that the said Twitter URLs and hashtags are spreading misinformation about the ongoing farmers' protests and could lead to violence.
On February 1, the social media giant declined to abide by the order issued. However, the government said that the company was bound to comply as per the Indian law.
"The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had passed an interim order on January 31, as a matter of emergency blocking of 257 URLs and 1 hashtag under section 69 A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (hereinafter referred to as the act) and Rule 9 of the Information Technology [Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public] Rules, 2009," India Today quoted ministry's order.
It said the accounts posted inflammatory content and incited genocide, both of which do not constitute as freedom of speech, but a threat to the country's law and order.
The ministry said that the social networking giant restored accounts/tweets despite the government's order for withholding them.
The company is obliged to obey the directions as per the authorities' satisfaction as to which inflammatory content will arouse passion and impact public order. "Refusal to do so will invite penal action," the ministry said.
"You are aware of the prevailing situation, which not only has the potential but has resulted in a major public order issue on January 26. The statutory authorities are doing everything possible to ensure that no adverse public order situation takes place," the notice further reads.
Can't Act As Intermediary
Speaking to the media, a government official said that "Twitter cannot sit as an appellate authority over the satisfaction of the authorities about its potential impact on derailing public order. It is only an intermediary".
"Twitter cannot assume the role of the court and justify non-compliance," the official said.
Referring to the issues of freedom of speech, the notice said that Twitter had no constitutional, statutory or any legal basis 'to comment upon the interplay of statutory provisions with constitutional principles or to read down the scope of statutory provisions as per its own limited private understanding of the constitutional and statutory laws of India.'