What just happened? Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, says that India threatened to shut down the platform and raid employees' homes in the country after it refused to remove accounts and tweets that were critical of the government.
In an interview with YouTube news show Breaking Points, Dorsey revealed that Twitter users' criticism of India's handling of the farmers' protests in 2020 was a sore point for the country's government.
"It manifested in ways such as: 'We will shut Twitter down 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," Dorsey told hosts Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti.
Dorsey also claimed that Twitter was asked to censor journalists in India and Turkey who criticized the government.
India has denied Dorsey's allegations. India's deputy minister for information technology, Rajeev Chandrashekar, tweeted a response on Tuesday that read, "This is an outright lie... Perhaps an attempt to brush out that very dubious period of Twitter's history."
"No one went to jail nor was Twitter 'shutdown'. Dorsey's Twitter regime had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law. It behaved as if the laws of India did not apply to it."
The BBC writes that during the farmers' protests against the agricultural reform laws, the Indian government asked Twitter to remove tweets it believed used an incendiary hashtag, and accounts it alleged were used by Pakistan-backed Sikh separatist groups.
Twitter initially blocked 250 accounts, including a news magazine and organizations supporting the year-long protests, but restored most of them just six hours later citing "insufficient justification" for keeping them suspended. Twitter incurred the government's wrath further by refusing its request to take down 1,100 accounts that were allegedly spreading misinformation.
The government responded by threatening Twitter employees in India with seven years imprisonment and fines. Police also visited the company's offices, part of a separate investigation over Twitter labeling an Indian minister's tweets as manipulated media.
India introduced a law in 2021 that threatens tech company bosses and those who work for them with potential imprisonment if they don't comply with takedown orders within 36 hours.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government are regular users of Twitter, though the number of legal demands sent by the government to remove content from the platform increased by 48,000% between 2014 and 2020.
India is Twitter's third largest market behind the US and Japan. It appears that since free-speech-loving Elon Musk took over, Twitter has been more willing to comply with the government's demands; Chandrasekhar said Twitter had been in compliance since June 2022.