Will Twitter be banned in India?

Koo vs Twitter
(Image credit: Future)

On a day of fast unfurling events, the Twitter and Indian government fight turned more intense as both made snide remarks against each other.

To cut a long story short, the Indian government had been demanding that Twitter take action (ban) on a clutch of handles that it (India) sees as fomenting trouble using the farmers agitation.

Twitter initially suspended a few handles, but it eventually restored them. The Indian government then sent three notices to Twitter urging immediate action, but the social media platform seemed to ignore them.   

Then the government also hinted at legal action against Twitter and its officials in India.

Twitter, which said that the safety of its officials was paramount to it, sought a meeting with MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and IT).

Twitter's provocative act

As it happened, ahead of the meeting, Twitter reportedly blocked around 500 handles that the Indian government had deemed as being harmful to the sovereignty of the nation.

Simultaneously, Twitter, in a move that is being seen as provocative by the Indian government, Twitter put out a loaded blogpost (opens in new tab) in which it detailed the actions taken against handles on the insistence of the government. But it also said that it did not take action against media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians.

"To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law. We informed MeitY of our enforcement actions today, February 10, 2021. We will continue to maintain dialogue with the Indian government and respectfully engage with them," Twitter said.

"We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve."

Indian govt props Koo

MeitY's post on Koo

MeitY's response to Twitter through its handle on Koo. (Image credit: Koo)

A miffed MeitY, through its handle on Koo, put put a post that said: "Upon the request of Twitter seeking a meeting with the Govt., the Secretary IT was to engage with senior management of Twitter. In this light a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusual. Govt. will share its response soon."

Later the post was shared on MeitY's Twitter handle (opens in new tab) too. But the fact that it first appeared on Koo is seen as significant. Koo, it should be said, is the Indian social media platform that the government and its supports are propping up as an alternative to Twitter.

Ministers and Ministries are being encouraged to use it and many of them have slowly migrated to Koo.

The character limit for a ‘Koo’ is 400,  Twitter's is 280.

Koo has had over a million downloads till Tuesday. Koo is available for download on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Can India afford to bite the bullet?

It, however, remains to be seen whether Koo gets the consistent backing of the general public. The platform, which looks a pale imitation of Twitter itself, is in a very rudimentary state. But it has received good funding especially from the right-wingers who are spearheading the fight against Twitter.

Today's Twitter-Indian government spat, and the concomitant backing to Koo, has also triggered whispers as to whether the social media platform will be banned in India.

Banning of Twitter is a huge call, and the Indian government already facing international rebuke for quelling dissent, may not be able to take at the moment.

But if the skirmish continues, the Indian government may pull the trigger on the grounds of national security, something which it did in the case of a plethora of Chinese apps.

For the record, Twitter is already banned in China, North Korea, Iran and Turkmenistan. These countries, it is no coincidence, are not exactly known for democratic methods.

Balakumar K
Senior Editor

Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.