Two years after the farmers’ protest, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey alleged in an interview that the micro-blogging site received “many requests” from the Indian government during the farmers’ protests, especially around “particular journalists that were critical of the government.”
Dorsey’s claims are currently making rounds on social media, with several Congress handles targeting the ruling Narendra Modi-government for the same.
Responding to the allegations, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, said in a tweet, "This is an outright lie by Jack Dorsey - perhaps an attempt to brush out that very dubious period of twitters history." He further goes on to state "Facts and truth."
'Will Raid Your Offices...': Dorsey
The interview, which aired on Monday, 12 June, was given to the YouTube channel Breaking Point.
The interviewer asks Dorsey to give “some anecdotes” of the pressure the company and he was under and “what it is to be in a position to have some of the most powerful people on Earth coming to you, demanding things of your company.”
Citing India as the first example, Dorsey claimed: “India is a country that had many requests around the farmers’ protest, around particular journalists that were critical of the government. It manifested in ways such as, ‘We will shut Twitter down in India’ - which is a very large market for us, ‘We will raid the homes of your employees’ – which they did, ‘We will shut down your offices’ – if you don’t follow suit. And this is India, a democratic country. Turkey is very similar…”
According to Dorsey, Turkey behaved in a similar way, which often led to engagement in court battles with the government which the company won, he added.
It was after a year-long protest by the farmers that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repealing of the three contentious farm laws in November 2021.
Acknowledging the failure to convince the farmers, PM Modi appealed to farmers to end their protest. Subsequently, during the winter session of Parliament, the three laws were withdrawn.
'Facts and Truth': MoS Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Responding to the allegations, MoS Rajeev Chandrasekhar said, "Twitter under Dorsey and his team were in repeated and continuous violations of India law. As a matter of fact, they were in non-compliance with law repeatedly from 2020 to 2022 and it was only June 2022 when they finally complied. No one went to jail nor was Twitter 'shutdown'."
"Dorsey's Twitter regime had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law. It behaved as if the laws of India did not apply to it. India as a sovereign nation has the right to ensure that its laws are followed by all companies operating in India. During the protests in January 2021, there was a lot of misinformation and even reports of genocide which were definitely fake."
Chandrasekhar further claimed, "Government of India (GoI) was obligated to remove misinformation from the platform because it had the potential to further inflame the situation based on fake news."
Further, Union Minister Anurag Thakur said, "What was said, is a blatant lie. Jack Dorsey woke up after years of sleep and wants to cover up his misdeeds. When Twitter was bought by another person, it was revealed in 'Twitter Files' how the was platform being misused. Jack Dorsey has not been able to answer this to date because he was exposed...Several foreign forces wake up when elections approach India."
What Really Happened?
While government spokespersons have claimed Dorsey's allegations to be a "lie", here's what happened.
On 1 February 2021 - when the farmer's protest was at its peak - Twitter withheld as many as 250 accounts for allegedly tweeting against the Central government over its handling of the farmer's protest.
The account blocked include those of several prominent people and groups, including Kisan Ekta Morcha, The Caravan, CPI(M) leader Md Salim, Manik Goyal, and Tractor2twitr. The action was taken after the Indian government purportedly sent a legal notice to the company.
News agency ANI had said the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) had directed Twitter to block around 250 tweets/Twitter accounts, which the government claimed were using #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag and making fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets on 30 January.
The action had come close on the heels of clashes between the Delhi Police and farmer's on Republic Day 2021. However, many of the accounts were restored within six hours, with Twitter citing "insufficient justification" for continuing the suspension.
The Indian government had then ordered Twitter to block the accounts again and told the company's employees in India that legal action would be taken - which could be up to seven years in prison - if they did not comply, BBC reported.
Continuing its confrontation, Twitter had responded saying that it would not block accounts belonging to media companies, journalists, activists and politicians because that would "violate their fundamental right to free expression under the Indian law".
Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was then the IT Minister, said on Tuesday, "At the time, Twitter didn't comply with Indian laws. It is clear that all social media platforms are respected in India but they have to abide by the law of the land," as quoted by news agency ANI.
'Mother of Democracy - Unfiltered'
Several Congress handles and politicians have reacted to Dorsey's clip on social media, targetting the Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) government.
Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Randeep Singh Surjewala shared the same and asked in a tweet, "Will Modi govt answer?"
Uddhav Thackeray faction leader and MP Sanjay Raut told ANI, "I have seen how the democracy of the country and freedom are under threat and how democracy is being strangulated behind the curtain. This makes it clear."
Meanwhile, questioning why Dorsey would lie, Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal said:
"First of all, I would like to know, why would Jack Dorsey make such a statement? Rajeev Chandrasekhar says that this is a lie. Why would he tell a lie? There is no reason for Jack Dorsey to tell a lie that they threatened Twitter when the protests were going on, that they would shut their offices and raid the then Twitter employees...There is every reason for others to tell a lie because they can't accept this."
Congress Sevadal tweeted, "That is how Narendra Modi Government trampled the democracy in India. (sic)"