Twitter, never out of the news for long these days, is suing the government of India over censorship issues:
On Tuesday, the U.S. social media platform asked an Indian court to overturn some of the government orders to kill posts, which Delhi had accused of spreading misinformation.
They included posts that backed farmer protests and tweets critical of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Twitter called the crackdown overbroad and arbitrary, with the government demonstrating an “excessive use of powers”.Rina Chandran, “Twitter battles India for control of social media content” at Thomson Reuters Foundation News (July 6, 2022)
No date is yet set for the hearing. Observers might be surprised by Twitter’s anti-censorship stance here, given the history in the United States. But the stark truth is that many governments and interest groups want more censorship, not less. In India, for example, the Hindu nationalist government demands censorship of tweets by journalists, activists and human rights groups that oppose its policies:
The social media giant has faced legal pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government ever since his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2021 passed an information technology law that gives the government more power over internet platforms. The law allows the government to block a wide range of content on defence and security grounds. It also criminalises violations of these orders, which companies must keep confidential.Pallavi Pundir, “Twitter Is Taking the Indian Government to Court Over ‘Abuse of Power’” at Vice (July 6, 2022)
Twitter is caught in the middle. But now, what if Elon Musk, dedicated to more free speech on Twitter, goes through with buying the firm?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 4, 2022
Making clear that the Twitter censors are in his sights…
As to the deal itself, while it was approved by the Twitter board on June 21, the value of Twitter’s shares has fallen during the Big Tech decline, leaving the value of the firm, hence the price, in ongoing dispute.
Possibly heralding changes to come at a Musk-run Twitter (if it happens), journalist Alex Berenson, author of Pandemia, has been reinstated after Twitter, threatened with a lawsuit for banning him, conceded that Berenson did not violate its COVID misinformation policy with this tweet:
It doesn’t stop infection.
Don’t think of it as a vaccine.
Think of it – at best – as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS.
And we want to mandate it?
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) July 6, 2022
In the fallout from the official responses to COVID-19, many people’s experiences would lead them to agree with Berenson on one or all of those points.
The Berenson episode hints at what is at stake: Is Twitter a platform for the public to offer a variety of views and experiences or one dedicated to reinforcing the policies of the establishment? And now, with the India flap, Musk appears headed for direct conflict with one of the world’s largest countries on this very question.
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