In India, Facebook and Twitter walk censorship tightrope with government

In India, Facebook and Twitter walk censorship tightrope with government

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“When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter’s rules, the content will be removed from the service,” the spokesperson said. “If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only.”

Some advocates have slammed the companies for complying with the order, citing Facebook’s partnership with the Global Network Initiative, a coalition that seeks to limit online censorship by autocratic governments, and Twitter’s stated mission to “serve the public conversation.”

“Facebook, Twitter, and other technology companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, including right to free speech,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in an email interview. “Online censorship can have a debilitating effect on dissent. It is important for companies to protect the human rights of their users and not censor information in violation of international standards.”

Despite the Indian government’s order, the companies “should interpret and implement legal demands as narrowly as possible, to ensure the least possible restriction on expression, notify users, seek clarification or modification from authorities, and explore all legal options for challenge,” Ganguly said.

But the choice by social media companies facing government demands isn’t only a moral one but a business decision, too. India has more than 755 million internet users — second in the world only to China — making it an attractive market for U.S. companies. Modi’s use of the country’s digital regulation laws places the companies in an unenviable position.

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