While reports claim that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is dissatisfied with the lack of compliance with takedown notices, data shows that Twitter has already taken action on the most number of content pieces (tweets and accounts) for 2022 in June.
An analysis of the Lumen Database, a website that receives and publishes disclosures by social media companies on takedown notices from governments across the world, reveals Twitter made 12 such disclosures in June.
Bu comparison, Twitter made 2 disclosures in May, 3 in April, 5 in March, 4 in February and 9 in January.
Each disclosure does not represent takedown of one content piece, but multiple content pieces which include tweets and Twitter accounts.
For instance, the latest disclosure from June 26, which said that Twitter withheld tweets of journalist Rana Ayyub, many politicians affiliated with the Indian National Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and CPIM, and so on, was based on 24 takedown requests sent by MeitY across 6 months.
These 24 takedown requests contained nearly 90 pieces of content which were either withheld in India, including 47 accounts that were suspended.
Similarly, another disclosure made by Twitter in June showed that on June 4, 33 Twitter accounts were suspended based on one single request by MeitY.
In addition to that, nearly 70 tweets were withheld in India including that of journalists Ayyub and CJ Werleman.
On June 4, MeitY sent another takedown notice and urged the social media intermediary to take down 17 pieces of content.
Most of these tweets that were withheld in India in this drive pertained to a controversial advertisement that has since been suspended by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
There are other such disclosures for June wherein the platform has had to remove content pieces based on MeitY orders.
It is unclear why there has been a major uptick in content takedown by Twitter in June. Twitter did not respond to queries Moneycontrol sent regarding the notices by MeitY. Officials in the ministry too did not respond to our queries.
However, it is a curious development at a time when the ministry, through amendments to the IT Rules 2021, is proposing to constitute a Grievance Appellate Committee, which would essentially veto decisions on content takedowns made by grievance officers of intermediaries.
It is also interesting to note that Twitter in June seems to have reneged on their own assurance of not taking action against content of journalists in response to takedown notices sent by the Indian government.
Back in 2021, Twitter in a blog had said, “... 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. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law. We informed MeitY of our enforcement actions today, February 10, 2021.”
This was also the question of former Special Rapporteur to the United Nations David Kaye, who while condemning Twitter's decision to withhold tweets of journalists such as Ayyub, asked why now.He asked, “Last year Twitter suggested support for the media even in India in the face of such demands. The company said this, and the big question now is: what’s changed? Why does Rana not benefit from this policy?”