Under fire by Indian government, Twitter is facing high stakes in a country of 1.3 billion where it has millions of users and is ardently used by PM Modi, his cabinet ministers and other leaders to communicate with the public.

Activists of the youth wing of India's main opposition Congress party scuffle with police officers during a protest against farm laws in New Delhi, India, February 9, 2021.
Activists of the youth wing of India's main opposition Congress party scuffle with police officers during a protest against farm laws in New Delhi, India, February 9, 2021. (Reuters)

Twitter Inc has said orders by the Indian government to take down accounts over content related to farmer protests are inconsistent with local law.

The social media giant said on Wednesday it would not agree to an outright ban for some accounts and will instead restrict access inside India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government asked Twitter to take down more than 1,100 accounts and posts it says accuse the administration of trying to wipe out farmers. Some accounts, the government said, are backed by arch-rival Pakistan or are operated by supporters of a separatist Sikh movement.

While Twitter has taken a range of actions, including permanent suspensions, against more than 500 accounts which were part of the government order, not all accounts have been blocked, the social media firm said in a blog post.

"These accounts continue to be available outside of India," Twitter said. "Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law."

READ MORE: India files case after Greta Thunberg tweets toolkit to support farmers

READ MORE: Why Indian farmers are protesting Modi's new farm laws

Threat of fines and jail time

Twitter this week "declined to abide (by) and obey" the order to remove posts and accounts that the government said risked inciting violence. The showdown is the latest instance of worsening relationships between Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration and US social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

After a storm of tweets with the hashtag “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide,” the government threatened US company's employees in India with fines and up to seven years' jail time if Twitter did not remove the demanded accounts.

In a statement, the company said: “Safety of our employees is a top priority for us at Twitter. We continue to be engaged with the government of India from a position of respect and have reached out to the Honourable Minister, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, for formal dialogue.”

READ MORE: Twitter deletes Bollywood star Ranaut’s tweets on farmers protests

Solidarity messages

The row between the company and the hard-right Modi government comes as farmers protests have gained increasing international attention and scrutiny.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping on the outskirts of Delhi since November calling for a repeal of reforms that free up farm produce markets.

The farmers say the changes mean the crucial agriculture industry will be taken over by major conglomerates.

On February 2, Rihanna, who has over 101 million followers on Twitter while sharing a news article by CNN network about the farmers' protest, wrote: “Why aren’t we talking about this?!”

Soon after her tweet, Greta Thunberg, Meena Harris, niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, and other international celebrities extended their support to the ongoing farm protest.

Thunberg said “we stand in solidarity” with the farm protest and shared a "toolkit" by Indians on how to help the ongoing protest.

READ MORE: Prominent figures shine spotlight on Indian farmers’ protests

Source: TRTWorld and agencies