Intermediary platforms like Twitter are being misused by anti-national elements and foreign adversaries to further anti-India propaganda at the national and global level, the Centre told Karnataka High Court. Online platforms are not taking effective steps to prevent the spread of fake news or deliberate misinformation on its platform, the Centre added.
Twitter is a "habitual non-compliant" platform and the plea challenging the Centre's blocking orders is nothing but an attempt to challenge the compliance mandated under law, the Centre said responding to the micro-blogging website's plea.
On July 6, the stand-off between Twitter and the Centre escalated when the microblogging platform moved Karnataka High Court challenging the legality of government orders that sought to block 39 tweets and accounts. The government wanted to block journalistic and political content, Twitter's plea said.
Ahead of the hearing on September 8, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) opposed twitter's plea suggesting that a foreign commercial company cannot define what is free speech and what content will cause issues for national security or public disorder.
Accounts blocked to prevent fake news, lynching and mob violence
The Centre said it issued directions to block certain Twitter accounts in the interest of national security and public order. Orders were issued to take down certain accounts in order to contain the rising spread of fake news, and misinformation and to prevent incidents of lynching and mob violence, the Centre's reply said.
"Misleading content, fake news, hate speech content on religious or ethnic lines, are widely spread and it has potential to multiply in various forms or new modified contents across various other platforms," the reply read. "These contents have the potential to jeopardize the peace in the country. Thus it becomes essential to detect and block such misinformation content and fake news at the initial stage itself to prevent a public order catastrophe like situation in the country," it added.
"The petitioner, unlike other social media platforms, has a high potential to create and spread disinformation due to its limited character policy," the reply said alluding that in the guise of fair comments insinuating comments in the form of tweets and content are prominent on Twitter.
The government is committed to providing an open, safe, trusted and accountable internet space. It is thus essential that platforms like Twitter immediately comply with government orders or else the orders lose their meaning and the offending viral content/ misinformation spreads very fast and most of the times across other platforms," MeitY said.
It is essential to make the Internet a safe space because the internet in India is set to grow from 84 crore Indians who use it today to 120 crores in the next two years and the digital economy is set to increase up to 20% estimated at $1 trillion out of the $5 trillion GDP, the reply said.
Twitter is a habitual non-complier
Twitter has been habitually non-compliant for years and it complies only after the government issues reminders and show cause notices. Twitter's petition under the pretext of procedural noncompliance of Section 69A is nothing but subterfuge and a device to overreach, defy and circumvent the lawful orders passed by the competent authority of the sovereign country and to assert commercial power; showcase immunities from laws and absolute monopoly in the relevant international market.
"The petitioner has purposely caused inordinate delay in complying with the blocking directions (some directions more than a year) to ensure that the blocking directions lose its value and the content under Section 69A become more viral and also spread to other platforms also," the affidavit stated.
Twitter has adopted a tactical approach where it first delays compliance, then quickly complies on receipt of show-cause notice and threat of penal action, then immediately files a petition for judicial protection, the Centre said.
Twitter's plea is nothing but a 'chance or luxury litigation' where Court's jurisdiction has been invoked surreptitiously to achieve an object indirectly when the same could not be achieved directly, the affidavit said.
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