‘India biz at risk’: In US suit, Musk raises Twitter’s tiff over MeitY orders

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Twitter’s high-stakes legal battle against some of the Indian government’s content blocking orders has been brought up in a different high profile case — that of the platform’s lawsuit in the US against Tesla CEO Elon Musk over pulling out of his $44-billion bid to buy the social media company. Musk has accused Twitter of hiding its India lawsuit from him and that its actions might jeopardise its business in the country.

Musk, in his counterclaims against Twitter’s lawsuit, said that the company’s decision to challenge the blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) was a “departure from the ordinary course” since it has previously blocked “pro-Ukrainian accounts for the Russian government”.

Musk said that while he supports free speech, Twitter should follow the laws of the countries in which it operates. He added that the social media platform did not apprise him of its lawsuit against the Indian government, thereby putting the company’s third largest market “at risk”.

Twitter, in response, has said that its actions in India are in line with its “global practice” of challenging government requests or laws if it believes that such requests are not “properly scoped under local law, are procedurally deficient, or as necessary to defend its users’ rights, including freedom of expression”. The company had filed a lawsuit against the MeitY in Karnataka High Court last month challenging a handful of the over 1,400 blocking orders it received.

“If it (Twitter) receives a valid and appropriately scoped request from an authorised entity, it may withhold access to certain content in the specific jurisdiction that has issued the valid legal demand or where the content has been found to violate local laws, but that it routinely pushes for limitations on, objects to, or otherwise challenges government requests or laws where such requests are not authorised or properly scoped under local law, are procedurally deficient, or as necessary to defend its users’ rights,” the company said in response to Musk’s counterclaims.

These submissions were made by Twitter in Delaware’s Court of Chancery where it has sued Musk for wanting to terminate his deal of buying the company. Last month, Musk said he wanted to terminate the deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion — agreed upon in April — because the company was in “material breach” of their agreement and had made “false and misleading” statements during negotiations.

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The Tesla CEO also said he was pulling out because Twitter fired senior executives and a third of its talent acquisition team, breaching the obligation to “preserve substantially intact the material components of its current business organisation.”

In its lawsuit against the government’s blocking orders, Twitter has told the Karnataka HC that MeitY has been “increasingly” issuing orders to block entire accounts without informing the company the specific tweets made by these accounts that call for their blocking. “Several of the URLs contain political and journalistic content. Blocking of such information is a gross violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed to citizen-users of the platform,” the petition read.

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