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Published: 14:40, June 13, 2023 | Updated: 18:03, June 13, 2023
India denies threatening Twitter shutdown over farmer protests
By Agencies
Published:14:40, June 13, 2023 Updated:18:03, June 13, 2023 By Agencies

The Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device on April 25, 2022, in San Diego. (PHOTO / AP)

WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI - India threatened to shut down Twitter in the country unless it complied with orders to restrict accounts critical of the handling of farmer protests, co-founder Jack Dorsey said, an accusation Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government called an "outright lie".

Dorsey, who quit as Twitter CEO in 2021, said on Monday that India had also threatened the company with raids on employees if it did not comply with government requests to take down certain posts.

"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.

Deputy Minister for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a top ranking official in Modi's government, lashed out against Dorsey in response, calling his assertions an "outright lie"

Deputy Minister for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a top ranking official in Modi's government, lashed out against Dorsey in response, calling his assertions 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," he said in a post on Twitter.

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The Indian government has often criticized Google, Facebook and Twitter for not doing enough to tackle fake or "anti-India" content on their platforms, or for not complying with rules.

The former Twitter CEO's comments drew widespread attention as it is unusual for global companies operating in India to publicly criticize the government.

Several top Indian officials criticized Dorsey's remarks and Twitter's past handling of misinformation. But many opposition lawmakers accused the government of muzzling the voices of farmers during the 2020-2021 protest, one of the severest challenges Modi has faced.

The government eventually gave in to the protesters and repealed laws that they said were anti-farmer.

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"It shows that everyone who dares to show the smallest bit of courage will be suppressed," said Supriya Shrinate, a spokesperson for the main opposition Congress party.

Shrinate said platforms like Twitter were threatened with dire consequences if they gave much space to the farmers' protests, and that the raiding of Twitter's offices in May 2021 was to suppress the farmers' movement.

Twitter was bought by Elon Musk in a $44 billion deal last year.

Chandrasekhar said Twitter under Dorsey and his team had repeatedly violated Indian law. He did not name Musk, but added Twitter had been in compliance since June 2022.

READ MORE: Twitter decries intimidation by India, will press for changes

Reacting to Dorsey's comments, farmers' leader Rakesh Tikait said that during the protests they had realized that the kind of reach on Facebook and Twitter that was expected on farmers' protest, had not come.

"Such companies don't come under anyone's pressure. Government of India must have made such attempts...What he said is correct," Tikait was quoted as saying by a section of Indian media.  

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