India dismissed claims on Tuesday that it had issued a threat to shut down Twitter within the country unless the platform complied with demands to block accounts critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
As the world’s largest democracy, India frequently petitions Twitter for content removals, making it one of the countries with the highest number of such requests. The social media platform routinely takes down or blocks content at the behest of Indian authorities.
Former CEO Jack Dorsey revealed on Monday that Twitter had faced sustained pressure from Indian officials during his tenure. Speaking on the YouTube chat show ‘Breaking Points,’ Dorsey disclosed that authorities had not only threatened to shut down Twitter in India but also carry out raids on the homes of its employees if the company did not meet their demands.
In response, Indian Information Technology Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar categorically denied Dorsey’s claim, labeling it an “outright lie.” Chandrasekhar further accused Twitter of repeatedly violating local laws and behaving as if the laws of India did not apply to the platform. The minister expressed concerns about Twitter’s handling of misinformation on its platform in India.
Last year, Twitter disclosed that India ranked fourth globally in terms of government requests for content removal, trailing behind Japan, Russia, and Turkey. In March, the platform blocked several journalist accounts during a manhunt for a radical Sikh preacher in Punjab, a northern state of India.
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the Indian government ordered Twitter and Facebook to remove numerous posts critical of its handling of the outbreak.
International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders described the suspension of social media accounts during the mass farmer protests in India the same year as a “shocking case of blatant censorship.”
Rights groups have raised concerns about the broad threat to freedom of expression in India, noting a decline of 21 places to 161 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index since Modi assumed office in 2014.
Indian authorities have frequently implemented complete internet shutdowns during periods of unrest, including a four-month outage in occupied Kashmir during a major security operation in the disputed territory in 2019.