Twitter is suing the Indian government over its request to delete tweets and accounts critical of its policies

 Twitter has announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government, defying the latest order to remove content and ban accounts within the country.

The company said the lawsuit, filed in the Karnataka High Court in Bangalore, comes after the government threatened to take criminal action against Twitter executives if they failed to comply with the order.

The company had been given a deadline on Monday to ban dozens of accounts and publications from view within India, but it did not do what was asked of it and appealed to judicial remedy.

The Indian government urged Twitter to follow the rules. “It is everyone’s responsibility to abide by the laws passed by the country’s parliament,” Ashwini Vaishnau, Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, said at a press conference.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have worked for several years to fortify the power of tech companies and strict control of what is said online, and have used new information technology laws to clamp down on dissent.

For example, Twitter has been asked to remove content related to civil liberties complaints, protests, press freedoms, and criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic.

In addition, the new rules forced social media companies to hire CEOs in India to ensure companies comply with government requests to remove content and block accounts. If not, these executives could be held criminally liable, and face potential prison sentences of up to seven years.

Twitter has previously criticized the government’s tactics and called on it to respect freedom of expression. The company said India’s laws were being used “arbitrarily and disproportionately” against the company and its users, many of whom are journalists, opposition politicians and non-profit groups.

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