Twitter to reimplement restrictions on some India accounts following government legal action threat

Twitter announced Wednesday that it would reimplement restrictions on some Indian accounts following its receipt of a non-compliance notice and threat of legal action by the Indian government.

Following legislation passed in September concerning the government’s role in agriculture and state protections for farmers, thousands of farmers have protested. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Indian authorities and protestors to “exercise maximum restraint” during the protests. The hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmersGenocide has been used on Twitter to bring attention to the government crackdown on protestors.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology served Twitter with several blocking orders, asking Twitter to remove more than 1,000 accounts related to the protests. Twitter temporarily complied with two emergency blocking orders. On February 1, Twitter blocked more than 250 accounts in India following a government request saying the tweets could incite violence. It later restored access to the content. India then served a non-compliance notice, threatening to punish Twitter if it did not comply with the government’s request to block the accounts.

On Wednesday, Twitter announced that it took steps to reduce visibility of hashtags “containing harmful content” by prohibiting them from trending and appearing as recommended search terms. Additionally, it permanently suspended and took other actions against over 500 accounts for clear violations of Twitter rules.

Twitter additionally withheld some of the accounts identified in the blocking orders only within India, allowing the accounts to be available outside of the country. Twitter stated that it decided not to take any action with news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians because the company believed that would “violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.”