Twitter announced it's filed a lawsuit against the Indian government, in what has been described as an ongoing battle for the right to defend freedom of speech.
The suit, filed in the Karnataka High Court in Bangalore, is the first legal challenge against laws passed in 2021 allowing the Indian Government to censor its critics online.
A Threat to Freedom of Expression
Twitter is challenging a law which came into play just before the Indian ban of VPNs, and gave the Indian government the right to demand that social media companies remove any posts or accounts that are critical of the Indian government, or risk facing jail time.
While Twitter initially complied to avoid losing its liability protections, the tech giant is now fighting back, calling the rules “a potential threat to freedom of expression” and an erosion of security measures— and it's not the only company that thinks so.
Big Tech Fights for Privacy Rights
In 2021, Reuters reported that WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the Indian government, claiming that the country's new laws would force the messaging app to break privacy protection. In response, the government claimed that the right to privacy is not absolute, but is “subject to reasonable restrictions”.
According to the New York Times, “the laws have been met with an outcry from Twitter and other social media platforms, which view India as an essential part of their plans for long-term growth. The companies have argued that India’s rules allow the government to broadly censor its critics, and that they erode security measures like encryption. But Indian officials have said the law is necessary to combat online misinformation.”
While the case is still pending, the fight for data privacy in India continues.
Is India Fighting a Losing Battle?
Just last month, VPN providers, including NordVPN, PureVPN, ExpressVPN and Surfshark, left India in droves, in response to a law that would require VPN providers to store user data for up to five years — which is a huge loss for businesses, given that the country represents the second-largest population for VPN usage in the world, with 45% of the country taking advantage of its data protection features and ability to help facilitate remote work.
Still, despite India's attempts to tighten the reins, could this lawsuit be the first of many? Support for freedom of speech certainly isn't weaning. As the story evolves we'll continue to watch this space.