India court rejects Twitter’s lawsuit against gov’t challenging block orders

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An Indian court has dismissed Twitter’s lawsuit against the federal government that sought to challenge New Delhi’s block orders on tweets and accounts.

The Karnataka High Court dismissed the high-profile plea, filed last year, and also fined the Elon Musk-owned firm 5 million Indian rupees ($61,000). The court observed that despite being issued notices, Twitter did not provide reasons for why it delayed compliance to the amendments to India’s IT rules.

“Your client (Twitter) was given notices and your client did not comply. Punishment for non-compliance is 7 years imprisonment and unlimited fine. That also did not deter your client,” a single judge bench said in scathing verdict Friday.

“So you have not given any reason why you delayed compliance, more than a year of delay… then all of sudden you comply and approach the Court. You are not a farmer but a billon dollar company.”

Twitter filed the plea against the Indian government in Karnataka High Court in Bengaluru last year, before the takeover by Musk was complete, alleging that New Delhi had abused its power by ordering it to “arbitrarily and disproportionately” remove several tweets from its platform. Some block orders “pertain to political content that is posted by official handles of political parties,” Twitter added in the lawsuit.

Musk, who appears to have a much cozier relationship with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, last year cited Twitter’s litigation against New Delhi as one of the many reasons he wanted to get out of the acquisition deal. His lawyers said that the lawsuit exposed risks to Twitter’s third-largest market.

Twitter had filed the lawsuit following a rough year and a half in India, a period during which it had been asked to take down hundreds of accounts and tweets, many of which critics argued were objectionable only because they denounced the Indian government’s policies and Modi.

Twitter partially complied with the requests but sought to fight many of the legal orders. Under the amendment to India’s IT rules that went into effect in 2021, Twitter had little to no room to individually challenge the takedown orders.

Friday’s verdict follows Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey alleging earlier this month that India regularly issued requests for the social media giant to remove certain posts and accounts, often accompanying these demands with threats of legal repercussions in cases of noncompliance.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the federal deputy minister for information technology in India, refuted Dorsey’s claims and alleged that the Twitter co-founder was attempting to “brush out that very dubious period of Twitter’s history.”

All platforms hv to be in compliance with Indian law n @Twitter under @jack repeatedly refused to do so. In response to @GoI_MeitY ‘s notice for non-compliance they approached Karnataka High Court n judgement 👇🏻

✅Karnataka High Court has dismissed the petition filed by…

— Rajeev Chandrasekhar 🇮🇳 (@Rajeev_GoI) June 30, 2023

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