Journalist Saurav Das mulls legal action as Twitter removes his posts on Amit Shah globally
The social media company’s actions on legal requests from the government are usually restricted to the territory within which the laws are applicable.
Journalist Saurav Das is considering legal action after Twitter removed two of his tweets on Union Home Minister Amit Shah globally.
The tweets posted last year were on Shah’s comments about India’s judiciary. Das told Scroll on Wednesday that he did not know when his tweets were removed as Twitter did not inform him about the action.
“I got to know about it after a friend last week [April 7] texted me that he was unable to see two of my tweets,” Das said.
The journalist said he does not remember the exact context of the tweet, reported The Hindu. On April 8, the journalist posted a screenshot of the two tweets, one of which quotes Shah, with a message from Twitter that said the content has been “withheld in worldwide in response to a legal demand”.
“Can Twitter allow the Indian government to sit in judgement over content that it may deem fit for blocking in America, or any other country apart from India,” Das tweeted on April 8. “Because Twitter has clearly blocked access to the tweets on “legal demand” from India, as can be seen from this ss [Screenshot].”
The global ban on Das’ tweets are significant as Twitter’s action on legal requests from the government are usually restricted to the territory within which the laws are applicable.
On Monday, Das filed a Right To Information application with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology seeking reasons and other details for ordering a global restriction on his tweets.
“The tweets were innocuous,” Das said. “So why order Twitter to block them? IT [ Information and Technology] Ministry does not disclose reasons for passing a blocking order. Neither does it share a copy of the order which is bizarre and against principles of natural justice. How is one supposed to challenge the decision if copy of order is not shared?”
On Wednesday, Twitter owner Elon Musk said that social media rules in India are quite strict, but the company cannot go beyond the laws of the country. On a Twitter Spaces chat with the BBC, Musk was responding to a question about social media posts sharing snippets of the broadcaster’s two-part documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots being blocked on the instructions of the Indian government.
The BBC had released the first part of the documentary, India: The Modi Question, on January 17. The documentary alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, was “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the riots and that he had ordered senior police officers not to intervene.
On January 20, the government had used emergency powers available under the Information Technology Rules, 2021, to issue directions to YouTube and Twitter to block clips of the documentary from being shared. The foreign ministry had described the documentary as “a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative”.
The Centre’s decision to block the social media posts was challenged in the Supreme Court in February. The plea argued that the Centre’s blocking order is “malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.
Meanwhile, in a separate petition in Karnataka High Court, Twitter has challenged central government’s orders to block 39 tweets and accounts on the platform between February 2021 and February 2022.