“We would raid the homes of your employees… We will shut down your offices if you don't follow suit…,” Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has once again ignited controversy with a few words aimed right. Jack Dorsey, has claimed that the Government of India had asked them to block various accounts that were reporting on / posting about the farmers' protests. He had made the allegations while talking about free speech, in an interview to Breaking Points on Monday and it did not take long for his words to snowball… where else but on Twitter. Fair enough, as he himself shared, he does own “three percent” of the company still.

Dorsey, who had also created a Twitter blitz when he stepped down from its board last year, has alleged that India had “many requests around farmers protests, around particular journalists which were critical of the government”. He said that, and it manifested in ways that implied that the Indian government had meant to say “‘we will shut Twitter down in India’… ‘we would raid the homes of your employees', which they did; ‘we will shut down your offices if you don't follow suit’. And this is India, a democratic country.”

Dorsey also named Turkey as having made requests like India, to “take down journalists accounts”, and worse share “contact information” and remove certain posts, which were purportedly critical of the government.

On Monday, June 12, Dorsey’s claims that the government of India had pressurised Twitter to “block accounts” has fuelled a political wrestling match as it were. Dorsey's allegations and critiquing the Indian government to an international audience had the expected reaction. The Bharatiya Janata Party machinery got into high gear quickly with representatives denying any attempts to “shut down” Twitter in India or having raided its employees' houses.

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party has been targeting the former Twitter CEO ever since the nearly 28 minute interview went viral. The focus on the India reference, as expected, took over what the rest of the interview was about.

Amit Malviya, the saffron party’s National Information & Technology Dept. Co-incharge led the charge with a verbose post on Twitter. He said, “Twitter was in violation of India laws for an extended period (between 2020-2022)” adding that it was never shut down “nor its employees raided or sent to jail, despite Dorsey and his colleagues actively pursuing a policy, which was at loggerheads with Indian regulations.”

Malviya, in response also accused Twitter when under Dorsey as being a platform “used by foreign forces inimical to India’s interest, on several occasions, which posed grave threat to India’s national security and well being”.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of State for Electronics & Technology, repeated those words adding that Dorsey's comments “are an outright lie. The fact is that Twitter, for a long duration between 2020 and 2022, was not complying with the Indian law, but during that period, they were neither raided nor sent to jail."

However, even Elon Musk, now the Twitter boss, had said something similar to what Dorsey has now said. Musk, however, was more careful in his April interview to the BBC, where he reportedly said that “in India, social media rules are extremely strict and it is not possible for the website to offer the same freedom of speech to Indian users that it does in the US and other Western countries.”

Musk, as reported by India Today magazine, had said in an interview that took place on Twitter Spaces, that “The rules in India for what can appear on social media are quite strict, and we can't go beyond the laws of a country... if we have a choice of either our people go to prison, or we comply with the laws, we'll comply with the laws.”

Musk played safe and did not name any specific Indian laws or rules. He was reportedly responding to questions on Twitter “blocking posts related to a BBC documentary on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi” stated the news report.

Last year in September Musk, who now owns Twitter, had raged “My tweets are being suppressed!”

It was in April this year, that Twitter 2.0 had made public its vision that people “have the right to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship”. It stated that Freedom of Speech was paramount and not Freedom of Reach. It shared an update on their “policy enforcement” sharing that “restricting the reach of Tweets, also known as visibility filtering, is one of our existing enforcement actions that allows us to move beyond the binary “leave up versus take down” approach to content moderation.”

It said it will add “publicly visible labels to Tweets identified as potentially violating our policies letting you know we’ve limited their visibility”.

Twitter added that “these labels will initially only apply to a set of Tweets that potentially violate our Hateful Conduct policy” and that they “will continue to remove illegal content and suspend bad actors from our platform.”

Hateful Conduct according to Twitter includes attacking people based on “race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” It stated in April that it was “committed to combating abuse motivated by hatred, prejudice or intolerance, particularly abuse that seeks to silence the voices of those who have been historically marginalized. For this reason, we prohibit behavior that targets individuals or groups with abuse based on their perceived membership in a protected category.”

The hateful references to “primary target or victims, where the intent is to harass” are banned. Also prohibited is “inciting behavior that targets individuals or groups of people belonging to protected categories.

This includes: inciting fear or spreading fearful stereotypes about a protected category, including asserting that members of a protected category are more likely to take part in dangerous or illegal activities, e.g., “all [religious group] are terrorists.”

The platform also prohibits “targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.” However, anti-minority trolling continues to be a feature on social media.

Interestingly, this is not the first time either that Jack Dorsey has spoken of suspensions and takedowns on Twitter. “Content takedowns and suspensions should not be possible. Doing so complicates important context, learning, and enforcement of illegal activity,” he posted on December 14, 2022. He wrote that “Social media must be resilient to corporate and government control”

While those statements went under the radar, this one has continued to generate buzz till late on Tuesday evening. The Opposition has been responding to the allegations made against the BJP-led government.

Congress spokeswoman Supriya Shrinate said “the dictator’s real face has been exposed”. She said the “dictator was a coward” who had targeted and attacked the farmers.

The NCP’s Supriya Sule said Jack Dorsey’s revelations and allegations are “”very serious. Not only is there a threat to the democratic system in the country, but also there is a hesitation in the freedom of expression. It is very important that this entire matter be investigated in an impartial manner”.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury said the “media ecosystem is being manipulated. Dissent is intimidated, journalists threatened, abused and jailed on false pretext. No amount of denial by the Modi government can obfuscate the truth of doctoring media content.”

Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole, according to a report in Money Control, said, “Everyone knows that CBI, and ED are being misused today, BJP is a party of liars.”

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said “Jack Dorsey's statement comes as no surprise to anyone. This government has been highly autocratic, intolerant of debate and intolerant of dissent and dissenting voices. This needs to be discussed."

She recalled how the farmers agitation itself was targeted and all attempts were made to brad them as “khalistanis” etc. “Understand the chronology,” she said, adding that last Monty Elon Musk had said something similar about Indian laws and free speech. “Even MPs were not allowed to speak”.

The last time Jack Dorsey had been targeted this way was when he was photographed holding a placard that said “Smash Brahmanical Patriarchy”. This was in 2018 when he was still Twitter CEO and had during his visit to India met with women journalists “to discuss the Twitter experience in India.”

That photo too got strong responses.