‘Scribe, news co tweets: India sought most blocks’

In the backdrop of the legal face-off between Twitter and the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY), the social media platform said that the government issued the highest number of legal demands to block content posted by verified journalists and news outlets on the platform during July-December last year.

In its latest transparency report, Twitter also noted that India was second in asking the platform users’ information and was among the top five countries to issue content-blocking orders to Twitter in the reporting timeframe for all kinds of users.

The micro-blogging website noted that in the last six months of 2021, it received 326 legal demands to block content posted by accounts of verified journalists and news companies, of which 114 came from India, accounting for over a third of total blocking requests. Nations like Turkey, Russia and Pakistan made up the top four along with India in issuing such demands to Twitter.

“349 accounts of verified journalists and news outlets located around the world were subject to 326 legal demands, a 103% increase in the number of accounts since the previous reporting period (January-December 2021),” Twitter said. “This spike is largely attributed to legal demands submitted by India (114), Turkey (78), Russia (55), and Pakistan (48).”

In the previous reporting period as well — January-June 2021 —  India had topped this list. In that timeframe, India had made 89 of the total 231 such demands the platform received globally. To be sure, Twitter defines “legal demands” as a combination of court orders and other formal demands to remove content, from both governmental entities and lawyers representing individuals.

Twitter filed a lawsuit earlier this month against some of the content and account blocking orders issued to it by MeitY under Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, between February 2021 and 2022. In its petition, Twitter told the Karnataka High Court that “increasingly” the Ministry has been issuing orders to block entire accounts without informing the company the specific tweets made by these accounts that call for their blocking.

“Several of the URLs contain political and journalistic content. Blocking of such information is a gross violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed to citizen-users of the platform,” the petition read.

The MeitY did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

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Twitter also received the second highest number of government legal requests for providing account information of users from India, after the United States. Various law enforcement and government agencies in India sent Twitter 2,211 such requests, out of the total 11,460 requests it received globally. According to Twitter, government information requests include both emergency and routine legal demands for account information issued by law enforcement and other government agencies.

Apart from that, India was also at the fifth place in terms of sending legal requests — from the government and various courts — to Twitter to remove content from its platform during July-December 2021. With 3,992 requests, India accounted for 8 per cent of the total 47,572 such demands the platform received globally.

“97% of the total global volume of legal demands originated from only five countries (in decreasing order): Japan, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, and India. These five countries have remained Twitter’s top requesting countries for legal demands over the past three years,” Twitter said. “Maintaining its position among the top five requesters, the Indian authorities continued to submit a significant number of legal demands this reporting period, which also included a high volume of URLs.”

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