Citing the social media giant’s latest transparency report, The Indian Express reported that India has the highest legal claim to block content posted on Twitter by verified journalists and news outlets in the past six months of 2021. The country also topped the list during the previous reporting period.
A third of the total requests come from India and the country is in the top four for issuing such requests along with Russia, Turkey and Pakistan.
This comes amid a legal battle between the Indian government and Twitter. The social media company recently petitioned the Karnataka High Court to overturn certain Indian government orders to remove content amid a legal challenge alleging abuse of power by officials.
According to data shared by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, the number of Twitter URLs blocked at the directions of the Narendra Modi government has increased steadily since 2014, with the exception of a decline in 2018.
Twitter defines “legal claims” as a combination of court orders and other formal requests to remove content from government agencies and attorneys representing the people.
In a petition before the high court, the social media giant said, “Several of the URLs contain political and journalistic content. Blocking of such information is a gross violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed to citizen-users of the platform.”
In June, tweets from the US human rights watchdog regarding India’s declining internet freedom were deleted.
In response to an unstarred question by Congress MP Pradyut Bordoloi, the union ministry of electronics and information technology shared data linked to Twitter in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
From eight in 2014, the number of blocked URLs rose to 15 in 2015, 194 in 2016, and 588 in 2017, before sliding to 225 in 2018. But this again saw a surge in the following years, with the highest number of URLs being blocked in 2020 and 2021 – the post-pandemic years as well as those marking the Delhi violence and long-sustained agitations such as those against the controversial citizenship law and the contentious farm laws. In 2019, 1,041 URLs were blocked, and this number rose to 2,731 in 2020 and 2,851 in 2021.