Twitter announced on Tuesday it had launched a lawsuit against the Indian government, the latest in an ongoing battle over the country’s aggressive speech laws. The lawsuit comes after Twitter was ordered to remove a string of accounts and posts that violate India’s obscenity and defamation laws. As I mentioned for the first time before New York times. Twitter has now removed the posts, but is seeking judicial protection from such orders in the future.
The battle began last May when India issued new IT rules for online content, followed shortly after by a police raid on Twitter’s offices in India. The following July, Indian regulators threatened to hold Twitter responsible for any future violations by its users.
Broadly speaking, Twitter has long argued that it abides by local laws around speech – but India’s laws on obscenity and seditious speech are extraordinarily aggressive. In the past, the country has used speech laws to stifle environmental concerns or a broader discussion of internal political conflict. Prominent writer Arundhati Roy, who has faced accusations of sedition over statements about the Kashmir conflict, described the system as chaotic and repressive at the same time. In a 2016 report on this issue. “The most frightening thing is that any crazy bird can file a complaint against you,” Roy said at the time. “It’s a serious amount of harassment.”
Twitter’s legal struggle is complicated by ongoing confusion about Elon Musk’s attempt to buy the company and make it private. In June, Musk vowed to stress the values of free speech as the owner of Twitter, but also said he would comply with local laws and hinted at staff cuts that would make it difficult to effectively defend the company’s position in India. Despite signing an agreement to take over the company, Musk himself continues to raise doubts about whether the takeover will take place, raising further doubts about the company’s future.