After booting Trump, Twitter regulations under spotlight in India, Mexico

Twitter regulations

Micro-blogging giant Twitter seems to be in hot water on multiple fronts this week, as its previous suspension of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s account during his last days in office seem to be haunting the platform.

The social media company is facing freedom of speech and regulation-oriented debates over the content that’s being pushed on its social networking space on two different continents, as the consequences of misinformation in the United States begin to overlap on contentions issues in other countries.

Let’s jump right in.

The Mexican front

Twitter has been caught in the crosshairs of a prominent senator from Mexico’s ruling party, who’s largely lobbying for increased regulations on major social media platforms in an attempt to protect “freedom of speech.”

The proposed amendment to the federal telecommunications law – which was acquired by Reuters – would grant the IFT, Mexico’s telecoms regulator, a say and oversight to establish a framework for the suspension and elimination of accounts on social networks.

The draft bill named social media titan Facebook – used among 90 percent of Internet users within Mexico – along with Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat among the list of social media companies that would be affected by the framework, which is aimed at “establishing the grounds and general principles of the protection of freedom of expression in social networks.”

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has had a tough stance on Big Tech, especially social networking sites, mainly following Facebook’s decision to indefinitely suspend former U.S. President Donald Trump’s account over misinformation.

Lopez Obrador even went a step further by singling out a Mexican Twitter employee earlier in January over allegations that his former connections to an opposition party could compromise the company’s ability to remain neutral.

The Indian front

Across the Pacific Ocean, Twitter seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place in one of its key markets, India, pitting it against a powerful world leader.

The country has been experiencing an onslaught of protests by farmers who are opposing laws aimed at deregulating the country’s agricultural markets to encourage the entry of private competition.

Protesters have popularized the use of #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide on Twitter; the hashtag has led the government to ask the micro-blogging site to block almost 257 accounts under India’s Section 69A of its IT Act.

In parallel, The Ministry of Electronics and IT has also asked for the blockage of 1,178 accounts believed to be linked to Khalistan (a Sikh separatist movement) sympathizers and those backed by Pakistan.

While the company had initially suspended the accounts at the government’s behest – including some high-profile ones with +200,000 followers supporting the ongoing protests by farmers and one of the country’s most prominent magazines earlier this month – Twitter quickly overturned the decisions under the pretext that the “content is free speech and newsworthy.”

The move prompted the Indian government to file a non-compliance notice that would see the social media giant faceoff with IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. The notice threatened Twitter’s employees with up to seven years in jail, reported by BuzzFeed News.

According to a blog post published by Twitter on Wednesday, the decision to overturn the ban was “served with several separate blocking orders” by the Indian government against hundreds of accounts in the past 10 days.

Twitter said it restored the accounts “in a manner that we believe was consistent with Indian law.”

The blog post added that it had taken some action against more than 500 accounts that were flagged by the government’s orders. Which Twitter said they were in “clear violation of its rules.” It also made several other accounts only visible outside India and restricted the visibility of certain hashtags containing harmful content.

But Twitter also drew a line in the sand.

“Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians,” the company said. “We will continue to maintain dialogue with the Indian government and respectfully engage with them.”

Twitter vs Modi

India is a key market for almost all of Big Tech, with more than 700 million Internet users, but one that’s a rather precariousmarket, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government at the helm, who has sought to tighten its grip on the Internet and social media platforms.

It is worth mentioning that this isn’t the first time the Modi government has clashed with social media giants, with previous adversaries including Facebook and WhatsApp.

In addition, Chinese video sharing app TikTok has been banned from India, along with numerous others last year, after diplomatic tensions with China escalated; in other instances, the government, has completely shut down the Internet in several parts of India to curb the onslaught of domestic protests.

Twitter regulations seems to be next in the pecking order to face off against Modi’s government, mainly due to the public’s reliance on the platform to share news and information regarding protests.

Till now, Jack Dorsey’s Twitter seems to be holding its ground against the Indian government.

“We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve. We are exploring options under Indian law — both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted,” the company statement said Wednesday. “We remain committed to safeguarding the health of the conversation occurring on Twitter, and strongly believe that the tweets should flow.”

However, Twitter seems to be in a different ball game with India then that of the U.S., since the Asian country’s population is three times the size of America, with different social and political views all together.

These regulations and requests arrive as governments across the world have increasingly pressured social media companies to be more proactive when fighting misinformation and hate speech published on their sites.

While the worldwide outcry over policing content online originated primarily in the United States, these issues often have further reaching and more sinister consequences in countries where these companies have a smaller business footprint but a far larger impact.

Twitter has been more proactive about policing its platform in recent months, taking down thousands of accounts linked to the conspiracy theory QAnon with Trump being its most high-profile follower.

With the ban on the former U.S. President, Twitter regulations showed a willingness to apply its policies to a world leader who violated “incitement to violence” posting rules, albeit towards the end of his time in office.