Facebook, Twitter Are Violating Fundamental Right Of Free Speech In India – Govt Of India
The Indian government has rebuked Twitter and Meta for suspending accounts that violate the social media giants’ community guidelines.
This has to do with Twitter’s decision to suspend lawyer Sanjay Hegde’s account about three years ago.
The Ministry of Information Technology said that the action violates the Indian constitution and free speech rights.
The Indian constitution grants the right to freedom of speech but bans it when it is deemed to pose a risk to India’s security, public order or “decency.”
Warning Before Action
This is a reversal from the government’s stance in 2019 when it said that the matter was for Hegde and Twitter to resolve.
Last month the government said that Meta and Twitter have to follow Indian laws and give users a chance to defend themselves before a post is removed or the account suspended.
However, they may directly take action in extreme cases such as content relating to rape threats or terrorism.
This is yet another negative development in the ongoing drama between the two tech giants and Modi’s administration which wants to regulate social media under the IT rules 2021.
IT Rules 2021
Per these rules, the platforms have to warn users not to post anything that’s defamatory, obscene, invasive of someone else’s privacy, encouraging of gambling, harmful to a child or “patently false or misleading” — among other things.
They will also have to take down content If the government orders it.
They will have to identify the original source of information shared online or forwarded among users in chat apps.
Non compliance will lead to company executives being held criminally liable.
The tech companies protested the rules which they said violate their users’ freedom of expression and privacy, and amount to censorship.
Free speech advocates also expressed concern that such rules are prone to politicization and could be used to target government critics.
However, the companies have no other choice but to fall in line, since India’s hundreds of millions of internet users present a ripe business opportunity, especially since they’re banned in China.
Twitter had agreed to comply with the new rules while Meta challenged it since the rules can also force its messaging platform WhatsApp to break its encryption.
Both have also defended their power to remove posts or user accounts as per community guidelines and terms of service agreed by users.
Petitioners have argued that the two social media giants have gained a duopoly and they perform a public function.