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India slams Twitter amid face off over content; lawmakers spark exodus to rival Koo

TechnologyFeb 10, 2021 03:40PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Twitter logo is seen outside the company headquarters in San Francisco 2/2

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India rebuked Twitter on Wednesday for not complying with its orders to take down certain content and warned the social media giant that it needs to obey local laws, even as Indian lawmakers urged their followers to switch to home-grown rival Koo.

India has ordered Twitter to remove more than 1,100 accounts and posts that it alleges are spreading misinformation about the widespread protests by Indian farmers against new agricultural laws.

Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) riled Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government earlier on Wednesday, after it said in a public blog post that it had not fully complied with the government's order because it believed some of the take-down orders were not consistent with Indian law.

"In keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians," it said.

India's IT Ministry, via a post on rival platform Koo, said late on Wednesday that its top official had on a call with some of Twitter's top executives expressed "strong displeasure" with Twitter's actions.

"Twitter is free to formulate its own rules and guidelines," the government said. "But Indian laws which are enacted by the Parliament of India must be followed irrespective of Twitter's own rules and guidelines."

The IT secretary expressed his deep disappointment over the manner in which the company had "unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay" complied with only parts of the government's orders, the government statement added.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment on the meeting with the IT ministry.

Twitter's moves to defy India's orders have put the company and its executives at the centre of a political firestorm. New Delhi has previously threatened legal action which could result in fines or imprisonment for Twitter executives responsible for implementing government directives.

It also comes after Twitter's top lobbyist in India, Mahima Kaul, resigned while the company scrambles to contain a growing public relations crisis.

Public opinion in one of Twitter's key markets is split. Some lawyers say Twitter must comply or challenge the order in court while activists blame the government for using legal provisions to curb free speech.

I'M ON KOO!

Earlier on Wednesday, Twitter said following government orders it permanently suspended over 500 accounts for engaging in platform manipulation and spam. For many others, it only restricted access within India and their tweets can still be read abroad.

For Twitter, the stakes are high in India, where it had 17.5 million users as of last month, according to German database firm Statista. It is also ardently used by Modi, his Cabinet ministers and other leaders to communicate with the public.

As the row takes a toll on Twitter, many Indian politicians and users are joining the home-grown Twitter-like social media platform Koo, which was launched last year.

#kooapp was the top Twitter trend in India on Wednesday with nearly 21,000 posts, followed by #BanTwitter.

Twitter declined to comment about some users migrating to Koo.

Several people on Twitter, including Trade Minister Piyush Goyal, have posted tweets this week saying "I am now on Koo". Goyal, who has 9.6 million Twitter followers, has a pinned tweet asking people to connect with him on the rival Indian platform.

Sambit Patra, a national spokesman for Modi's ruling party, and its head of IT Amit Malviya also joined Koo on Wednesday.

Koo, which has a yellow bird as its logo, said downloads have surged 10-fold in the past two days to over 3 million.

"The last 48 hours has seen the largest number of sign-ups," Koo's co-founder Mayank Bidawatka told Reuters. "I've slept for two hours in last few days."

India slams Twitter amid face off over content; lawmakers spark exodus to rival Koo
 

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Comments (8)
Harvinder singh
Harvinder singh Feb 10, 2021 5:55PM ET
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India is a semi democracy and this illiterate govt with illiterate candidates is taking it towards authorism those say themselves nationalist will immigrate to western countries and then bark about being nationalist try raising flags of US UK Canada like these pimps do in US u will know how much democracy u enjoy here
SunilKumar Dixit
SunilKumarDixit Feb 10, 2021 9:09AM ET
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If twitter wants to be in India, it must obey Indian government orders. Otherwise it's time is up.
tj gill
tj gill Feb 10, 2021 4:34AM ET
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twitter is the best thing
Jason Goodin
Jason Goodin Feb 10, 2021 3:51AM ET
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Meanwhile back in the USA, home of free speech, if you so much as Tweet a picture of the insert of the Pfizer vaccination, your account will be suspended until you remove that "misinformation"!!!!
John Wim
John Wim Feb 10, 2021 2:07AM ET
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I hope The indian government will pull the plug on this tweet nonsense
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Feb 10, 2021 1:49AM ET
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Moodi will cut Twitter
SunilKumar Dixit
SunilKumarDixit Feb 10, 2021 12:30AM ET
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Twitter is not above the government of India.
Options Trader
Options Trader Feb 10, 2021 12:27AM ET
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Just end twitter and be over with it. We are at a critical point in history. Make the right decision or future generations will pay dearly for it.
 
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