No Labels for Indian Govt Twitter Handles Amid Blocking Row

Twitter is expanding the labelling plan, meant to promote transparency and contextualisation, to 16 more countries.

2 min read
Govt officials slammed Twitter for “unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay” complying with parts of the order.

Twitter will not be adding labels to identify state-affiliated accounts from India in the next phase of its transparency and information contextualisation plan, even as it expands the system to 16 new countries.

In August 2020, the social media site had added account labels for key government officials and state-affiliated media entities for accounts from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States.

The logic behind the move, as explained by the company, is as follows:

“Twitter is where people come to see what’s happening and to hear from their governments and government officials. We believe that safety and free expression go hand-in-hand, especially when interacting with these leaders and associated institutions, and adding context to what people see on Twitter helps them have a more informed experience on Twitter.”

On 17 February 2021, the labelling system will be expanded to G7 countries Canada, Germany and Japan, along with several others like Cuba, Turkey, UAE and Thailand – but not India.

At over 17 million users, India is Twitter’s third largest market, but the company has run into hot water with the central government in recent weeks.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology recently ordered the microblogging site to take down 250 Twitter handles which had reportedly used a misleading hashtag, before expanding the demand to over 1,000 accounts which they accuse of Khalistani and Pakistani links.

While Twitter had initially complied with the first request, which included demands to take down farmer protest group handles as well as that of The Caravan magazine, it had subsequently restored many of these accounts. It also did not fully comply with the demands for taking down the second set of accounts.

The company argued that these included news organisations, journalists, activists and politicians, and taking them down would violate Twitter’s principles of “defending protected speech and freedom of expression.” It also argued that these demands were inconsistent with Indian law.

The Centre released its own statement arguing that Twitter did not have the discretion over whether to comply with a blocking order issued under Section 69A of the IT Act and the connected Blocking Rules.

While Twitter has withheld further accounts, the standoff continues, with the central government endorsing the use of an Indian Twitter-esque app called Koo, where it now releases information ahead of posting it on Twitter.

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