Indian government dismisses allegation by Twitter’s ex-CEO as an ‘outright lie’.
India, Nigeria and Turkey had threatened to shut Twitter down unless it complied with orders to restrict accounts, co-founder Jack Dorsey has alleged.
Dorsey, who quit as Twitter CEO in 2021, said on Monday that India threatened the company with a shutdown and raids on employees if it did not comply with government requests to take down posts and restrict accounts that were critical of the government over protests by farmers in 2020 and 2021.
“It manifested in ways such as: ‘We will shut Twitter down in India’, which is a very large market for us; ‘we will raid the homes of your employees’, which they did; and this is India, a democratic country,” Dorsey said in an interview with YouTube news show Breaking Points.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has repeatedly denied engaging in online censorship and said on Tuesday that Dorsey’s assertions were an “outright lie”.
“No one went to jail nor was Twitter ‘shut down’. Dorsey’s Twitter regime had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law,” Rajeev Chandrasekhar, junior minister for information technology, said in a post on Twitter.
The protests by farmers over agricultural reforms went on for a year and were among the biggest faced by the government of Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The farmers ended the protests in late 2021 after winning concessions.
“India is a country that had many requests of us around the farmers’ protest, around particular journalists that were critical of the government,” Dorsey said.
During the protests, the Indian government sought an “emergency blocking” of the “provocative” Twitter hashtag “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide” and dozens of accounts.
Twitter initially complied but later restored most of the accounts, citing “insufficient justification” to continue the suspensions.
In subsequent weeks, Indian police visited a Twitter office as part of another inquiry linked to tagging of some governing party posts as manipulated. Twitter at the time said it was worried about staff safety.
Dorsey in his interview said many content takedown requests during the farmer protests were “around particular journalists that were critical of the government”.
Since Modi took office in 2014, India has slid from 140th in World Press Freedom Index to 161 this year, out of 180 countries, its lowest ranking ever.