According to co-founder Jack Dorsey, India, Nigeria, and Turkey have threatened to shut down Twitter if it doesn’t follow orders to block accounts.
Dorsey, who left his position as CEO of Twitter in 2021, claimed on Monday that India had threatened to shut down the firm and conduct employee raids if it did not accede to government orders to delete postings and block accounts that were critical of the government in response to farmer demonstrations in 2020 and 2021.
“It manifested in ways such as: ‘We will shut down Twitter in India’, which is a very large market for us; ‘we will raid the homes of your employees’, which they did; and this is India, a democratic country,” said Dorsey in an interview with YouTube news programme Breaking Points.
The administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has previously denied using web restrictions, and on Tuesday, it said that Dorsey’s claims were “outright lies.”
No one was imprisoned, and Twitter was not “shut down’. According to Rajeev Chandrasekhar, junior minister for information technology, “Dorsey’s Twitter regime had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law.”
The government of Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had to deal with some of the greatest protests in its history during the year-long farmer protests for agricultural reforms. After gaining concessions, the farmers put an end to their demonstrations in late 2021.
“India is a country that had many requests of us around the farmers’ protest, around particular journalists that were critical of the government,” said Dorsey.
The Indian government requested an “emergency blocking” of the “provocative” Twitter hashtag “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide” and other accounts during the demonstrations.
After initially agreeing, Twitter eventually reinstated the majority of the accounts citing “insufficient justification” to continue the suspensions.
In the weeks that followed, Indian police went to a Twitter headquarters as part of a different investigation into the labelling of some posts from the ruling party as being manipulated. At the time, Twitter expressed concern for employee safety.
In his interview, Dorsey stated that many demands for material removal during the farmer protests were “centered around specific journalists that were critical of the government.”
India’s score in the World Press Freedom Index has dropped from 140th in 2014, when Modi assumed office, to 161st this year, its lowest position ever.
Nigeria and Turkey
In addition, Dorsey claimed that similar pressure had come from the governments of Turkey and Nigeria, whose governments had previously imposed temporary bans on the platform in those countries before lifting them.
According to Dorsey, Twitter was unable to even hire anyone in Nigeria due to concerns about what the government would do to them.
Nigeria had a rocky relationship with Twitter under Muhammadu Buhari, who served as president from May 2015 to May 2023. Twitter was frequently used as a platform by youth, civil society, and other dissidents to spread news about government abuses of human rights.
Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said in June 2021 that Dorsey was to blame for the damage to public property and the deaths that occurred during demonstrations against anti-police brutality in October 2020.
The official was making reference to Dorsey’s message endorsing protesters’ Twitter fund-raising efforts.
The biggest democracy in Africa suspended Twitter in 2021 after it took down a message from Buhari threatening to punish separatists in the region. In January 2022, after Twitter apparently agreed to open a local office and other agreements with authorities, the seven-month ban was lifted.
According to Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general of the National Information Technology Development Agency, “Twitter has agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgment of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation has been built.”
What the requirements were and whether Twitter complied with them, however, are still unknown.
Twitter inaugurated its Africa office in Ghana’s neighbour in April 2021, citing that country’s capital, Accra, as a desirable location because of its support for online freedoms and free expression. A curator with a concentration on Nigeria was, in fact, one of the positions posted for the new office.
After Elon Musk took charge, the office was eventually closed, and the employees were fired.
The sheer volume of inquiries we received from Turkey supports Dorsey’s claim that Turkey and India are extremely comparable. Although we frequently prevailed in our legal battles with Turkey, they continuously threatened to shut us down.
Turkish and Nigerian officials didn’t respond right away.