Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey on Monday said that Indian authorities threatened to shut the microblogging platform in the country if it did not act against the dissenting voices during the farmers’ protest.
Dorsey made the comments during an interview with YouTube channel Breaking Points when asked to give examples of foreign governments putting pressure on Twitter to comply with their demands.
“India, for example, had many requests of us around the farmers’ protest – around particular journalists that were critical of the government,” the former Twitter chief executive officer said. “It manifested in ways such as ‘we will shut Twitter down in India’...and ‘we will raid the homes of your employees’ – which they did.”
Dorsey said that Indian authorities threatened to shut down Twitter’s offices in the country if the company did not comply with its requests. “...And this is India, a democratic country,” he added.
But Union Minister of State for Electronics and Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Tuesday dismissed Dorsey’s claims as an outright lie.
“Dorsey’s Twitter regime had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law,” he claimed. “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.”
Chandrasekhar said that during the farmers’ protest, there was a lot of misinformation and “even reports of genocide” that were definitely fake. He appeared to have been referring to tweets from 2021, with the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide, which the Centre had directed Twitter to withhold.
“To set the record straight, no one was raided or sent to jail,” the Union minister added on Tuesday. “Our focus was only on ensuring the compliance of Indian laws.”
However, several Opposition leaders reacted sharply to Dorsey’s claims about pressure on Twitter from the Union government. Indian Youth Congress president Srinivas BV shared excerpts from the interview on Twitter with the caption: “Mother of Democracy – Unfiltered.”
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre “tried to arm-twist social media platforms to mute the voices of those supporting the farmers”.
In February 2021, the government asked Twitter to remove hundreds of accounts that criticised the Centre over its handling of the large-scale farmers’ protests that started in November 2020. The social media platform initially refused, but eventually relented after its local employees were threatened with prison time.
The Centre had also repeatedly criticised Twitter for not fully complying with the new Information Technology rules that came into force in May 2021.
In August, a former security chief of Twitter, Peter Zatko, had alleged that the Indian government forced the social media company to put one of its “agents” on its payroll. Zatko had also alleged that the “agent” was given access to user data when the government was facing “intense protests”