The government and Twitter seem to be heading for a showdown as the micro-blogging website has refused to remove some webpages containing inflammatory content due to “technical difficulties.” However, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Department of Electronics and IT (DEIT) are not amused with Twitter’s response on this “sensitive issue” and are contemplating action against it.
“The response of Twitter on our specific requests have not been very encouraging…they [Twitter] are not cooperating fully. They have to understand the gravity of the situation. Their plea that they are not governed by the Indian laws as their server is not based in India is only complicating the situation. If they fail to budge, we have no other option but to take action against them,” a senior DEIT functionary told The Hindu.
Following directions from the MHA, the DEIT had asked Twitter to immediately remove around 30 webpages from the website that still carried morphed pictures, fake images and other inflammatory content aimed at inciting communal tensions in the northeast and other parts of the country. Similarly, Twitter is still to act on some accounts that are similar to PMO’s official account and are carrying objectionable content.
However, with Twitter pointing to “technical difficulties” in blocking these webpages and seeking more time to comply with the orders, the MHA and DEIT officials have decided to give a final deadline to the micro-blogging website for blocking of these websites. “I think they are buying time. It is their [Twitter] responsibility to remove these pages…If they fail to comply with our orders, they will have to face action,” the official said.
In view of the current situation, the DEIT has been extra cautious while dealing with the issue as it does not want to give an impression that it is curbingfreedom of speech. “Our teams have been closely monitoring the social networking websites for objectionable content and scrutinising request from the MHA…we need to be very careful before ordering blocking of any website or webpage. With such a huge following of websites like Facebook and Twitter, any decision in haste could boomerang upon us. We are working on some kind of mechanism to deal with such precarious situation more effectively in future,” the DEIT functionary added. Notably, there are over 1.5-crore Twitter users and around 5-crore Facebook account holders in India.
Meanwhile, a senior MHA official has denied reports that Twitter accounts of some Indians, including a few journalists and social activists, have been blocked by the government. “Following requests from security agencies, the MHA had requested blocking of some webpages as they carried inflammatory and objectionable contents. The government is not blocking any individual Twitter account,” the official said.
Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh and Intelligence Bureau Director Nehchal Sandhu met Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal and discussed issues like the internal security threat coming from the telecom and IT sector and how to deal with them.