Twitter has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government, challenging a recent order requiring it to ban accounts and scrub certain content as officials insist it must follow the law.
Filed in the Karnataka High Court in Bangalore on Tuesday, Twitter’s complaint alleges that the government order constitutes “a violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed to citizen-users of the platform,” and is not supported by regulations on the books, according to TechCrunch.
Twitter had been given a Monday deadline to delete dozens of accounts and posts, and while a company spokesperson told the New York Times that it complied, the legal challenge followed soon after.
The government responded to Twitter’s new suit during a news briefing on Tuesday, with electronics and information technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw insisting “It is everyone’s responsibility to abide by the laws passed by the country’s parliament.”
Last year, the Indian government adopted a law granting authorities more oversight powers on social media, allowing officials to order the takedown of material deemed problematic, including alleged disinformation and hate speech. Should platforms refuse to comply, they risk losing their liability protections, meaning they could be sued for what users post.
While Twitter has largely cooperated with those orders, it has also raised concerns over the “potential threat to freedom of expression” the rules might entail and publicly squabbled with officials, who it claimed were enforcing laws “arbitrarily and disproportionately.”
The latest lawsuit follows a similar legal challenge by WhatsApp, which also pushed back on India’s stricter social media regulations after it was told it would be forced to make private messages “traceable” for law enforcement on request. Though that case is still pending, the government has argued that privacy rights are not “absolute” and “subject to reasonable restrictions.”
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