Twitter is going through an extraordinarily tough year in India. But the company’s response to the turmoil has left even some people who would like to be on its side baffled.
Silicon Valley’s biggest tech firms have been locked in a tense stand-off with India over strict new information technology rules the government introduced in February. The rules are aimed at regulating online content and require companies to hire people who can respond swiftly to legal requests to delete posts, among other things — and these executives may be subject to potential criminal liability if flagged content is not removed.
There are serious, legitimate concerns about Big Tech’s entry into India and elsewhere that these rules could theoretically address. American social networks have moved into other countries, eager to tap large new markets but seemingly with little concern for what effects their platforms could have on the people there and little expertise or infrastructure to deal with those effects. That can have massive consequences, as Facebook’s presence in Myanmar did, as well as smaller ones. Authorities in India facing an urgent issue with material on Twitter, for instance, might currently have to wait until people in California — 12 hours behind — are available.
But activists and tech firms fear the new rules give Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government too much discretionary power, and that their primary effect might be allowing the government to target and censor political opponents.