Twitter takes down post on Home Minister globally

The move is an apparent first, as Twitter generally takes down posts in response to government demands only in the country whose government demanded censorship

April 08, 2023 12:57 am | Updated 12:57 am IST - NEW DELHI

In an apparent first, Twitter appears to have withheld a tweet globally in response to a “legal demand” in India. Journalist and Right to Information (RTI) activist Saurav Das posted a screenshot of two past tweets, one of which appears to quote Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah, with a message from the social media platform stating that the content has been “withheld in Worldwide”. 

This is significant as Twitter has usually restricted access to posts following government requests only in the territory where such content is demanded to be blocked. The only instances where content has also been taken down globally is when it also violates Twitter’s own Terms of Service.

Twitter’s Country Head for India Kanika Mittal and its director for Global Government Affairs for India Samiran Gupta didn’t immediately respond to a query on the takedown. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) was not available for immediate comment late Friday evening.

Mr. Das said he did not remember the exact context of the tweet. It is not clear which government agency demanded that Twitter take the posts down. The Hindu was unable to access the tweet in question even with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection to the United States, where other content restricted on Indian government orders were visible. 

Even under its new CEO and owner Elon Musk, the site has restated its commitment to freedom of expression. 

“Twitter representatives expressed concern about the growing number of actors demanding that platforms remove content under broad and unclear definitions and the need for greater transparency from governments about such requests,” the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said in a press release following a delegation’s visit to the company’s headquarters. 

“They also argued that demands to curb illegal content must adhere to human rights regulatory frameworks and respect the fundamental purposes of freedom of expression,” the delegation added. Twitter’s Global Government Affairs team (formerly its Policy team) said in a tweet mentioning the delegation’s visit that “government requests [should] respect the fundamental purposes of freedom of expression.”

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