India, Russia, Turkey, and Pakistan made up the top four in issuing such demands, according to the social media company's transparency report.
India accounted for the highest number of legal demands to block content posted on Twitter by verified journalists and news organisations in the last six months of 2021, according to an Indian Express report citing the social media giant’s latest transparency report. The country also topped the list in the previous reporting period.
A third of the total requests came from India, and the country, along with Russia, Turkey and Pakistan made up the top four in issuing such demands.
This comes amid a legal tussle between the Indian government and Twitter. The social media company recently approached the Karnataka High Court seeking to overturn some Indian government orders to take down content in a legal challenge which alleges abuse of power by officials. Except for a slide in 2018, the number of Twitter URLs being blocked on the Narendra Modi government’s directions has seen a consistent rise since 2014, according to data shared by the union ministry of electronics and information technology in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
The latest report also notes that India was second in seeking user information and among the top five countries to issue content-blocking orders in the reporting timeframe for all kinds of users.
“349 accounts of verified journalists and news outlets located around the world were subject to 326 legal demands, a 103% increase in the number of accounts since the previous reporting period (January-December 2021),” Twitter said. “This spike is largely attributed to legal demands submitted by India (114), Turkey (78), Russia (55), and Pakistan (48).”
Twitter defines “legal demands” as a combination of court orders and other formal demands to remove content, from both governmental entities and lawyers representing individuals.
In a petition before the high court, the social media giant said, “Several of the URLs contain political and journalistic content. Blocking of such information is a gross violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed to citizen-users of the platform.”
In June, tweets from a US-based human rights watchdog on declining internet freedom were taken down in India.
In response to an unstarred question by Congress MP Pradyut Bordoloi, the union ministry of electronics and information technology shared data linked to Twitter in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
From eight in 2014, the number of blocked URLs rose to 15 in 2015, 194 in 2016, and 588 in 2017, before sliding to 225 in 2018. But this again saw a surge in the following years, with the highest number of URLs being blocked in 2020 and 2021 – the post-pandemic years as well as those marking the Delhi violence and long-sustained agitations such as those against the controversial citizenship law and the contentious farm laws. In 2019, 1,041 URLs were blocked, and this number rose to 2,731 in 2020 and 2,851 in 2021.
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