Twitter hits a provocative note in its fight with India on the restriction of accounts in the country. On Monday, the company released its first official response since the Indian government asked it to reblock more than 250 accounts it had restored in defiance of an order from the IT ministry. Among the blocked accounts were Caravan, a news magazine, and people who had criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We firmly believe that the open and free exchange of information has a positive global impact and that Tweets should continue to flow,” the company said in a statement shared with BuzzFeed News.
The Twitter statement comes amid a standoff with India’s increasingly authoritarian government as millions of farmers protest farm reforms, shaking the nation.
Monday, Indian press reports said the government had asked the company to block nearly 1,200 additional accounts it said tweeted about the protests and were run from Pakistan. A report in The Times of India, an anonymous government official also said India was angry with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for liking the tweets supporting the protests. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.
On January 31, India’s IT ministry ordered Twitter to prevent more than 250 accounts belonging to activists, political commentators and the Caravan to be consulted inside the country. Twitter initially complied but changed course six hours later. In response, the Indian government ordered the site again blocked accounts and threatened Twitter officials in India with legal action for breaching the order, including a fine and up to seven years in prison.
But a week later, the accounts are still open, exposing company staff in India to the risk of government retaliation.
“The safety of our employees is a top priority for us on Twitter,” the company statement read. “We continue to work with the Indian government in a position of respect and have contacted the Honorable Minister of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology for official dialogue.”
Twitter’s actions put him at the center of a free speech debate in a country that experiences a continued crackdown on dissent amid protests from millions of farmers opposed to farm reforms they say will hurt their lives. income. For Twitter, blocking the accounts again would mean allowing this crackdown, but not restricting them risks legal consequences.
“We are reviewing every report we receive from the government as quickly as possible and taking appropriate action on those reports while ensuring we uphold our core values and our commitment to protect the public conversation,” Twitter said. “An update is shared through our established communication channels with government.”
Despite the polite language, some people, including former Twitter employees saw a double meaning in this statement. During the Arab Spring in 2011, company co-founder Biz Stone and former general counsel Alexander Macgillivray wrote an article clarifying the company’s position on free speech. It was titled: “The tweets must circulate.”