Twitter Moves Court Against India's Content Blocking Orders, Alleges 'Abuse Of Power'

The government had asked Twitter to act on the content take-down notices sent under Section 69A of the IT Act, along with non-compliance notices issued for not taking the content down.

By Talibuddin Khan
Updated: Tue, 05 Jul 2022 06:14 PM IST
Minute Read
Twitter Moves Court Against India's Content Blocking Orders, Alleges 'Abuse Of Power'
Reuters Photo

Twitter has moved the Karnataka High Court against the Indian government's order to take down some content on its platform, on the grounds that the content blocking orders from the IT Ministry does not pass "the test of the grounds provided under Section 69A of the IT Act".

Twitter has alleged in its writ petition that multiple accounts and content included in the blocking orders are either "overbroad and arbitrary", fail to provide notice to the "originators" of the content, and are "disproportionate" in several cases.

Alleging "abuse of powers by officials", the social media platform, in the court petition, said that several blocking orders that were issued to Twitter only "cite" the grounds of Section 69A but fail to demonstrate how the content falls within those grounds or how the said content is "violative" of Section 69A.

In a June letter, the IT Ministry had warned Twitter of strict action if it does not comply with some content takedown orders. Twitter has now sought judicial review of some of the content that forms a part of various blocking orders, requesting relief from the court to set aside these blocking orders.

Meanwhile, the government is yet to respond to Twitter's plea but IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who attended Digital India Week 2022 today, said that it is important to hold social media accountable in today's times. He also said that accountability first starts with self-regulation.

"Social media accountability has become a valid question globally. It's important to hold it accountable, which will first start with self-regulation, then industry regulation, followed by govt regulation," Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, as quoted by ANI, said.

According to the writ petition, account-level blocking is a "principally disproportionate measure" and "violates rights of users under the constitution, especially when the reasons stated to block URLs and reasons stated to block an account lack specificity and merely cite grounds under Section 69A".

The MeitY itself, in various filings in the Delhi High Court, stated that if only some portion or some content is unlawful, then the platform may take proportionate action of removing such alleged information alone, and should not completely suspend the user account. "In fact, MeitY has noted that taking down the whole user account should be a last resort," the writ petition alleged.

In the June letter, the MeitY set out serious consequences of non-compliance, including, but not limited to, initiating criminal proceedings against Twitter's Chief Compliance Officer, and granted the last opportunity to comply with a series of blocking orders which are issued under the Section 69A of India's IT Act.

The letter also threatened that failing to do so would cause Twitter to lose its safe harbour immunity as available to it under Section 79(1) of the IT Act. Due to the seriousness of these threats, Twitter has chosen to challenge several blocking orders issued by the MeitY under Section 69A through the legal mechanism of a writ petition before the High Court of Karnataka.

"These blocking orders are being challenged on the basis that they are procedurally and substantially deficient of the Section 69A requirements," according to the writ petition.

(With IANS, ANI Inputs)

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