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MEITY denies threats to arrest social media, messaging company execs

Screenshot of RS TV interview of Ajay Prakash Sawhney
Representational picture.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in a statement shared with news agency PTI and right wing site OpIndia denied that it had threatened to jail executives from social media and messaging companies if they did not comply with legal demands. “None of the government communications, either written or oral, have ever threatened the employees of any of the social media platforms of jail term,” IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney claimed.

We have reached out to Sawhney’s office to share a copy of the statement, which hasn’t been made available online, and will publish it here in full if they respond.

The statement was responding to a Wall Street Journal story from March 5 that “written warnings [by the government] cite specific, India-based employees at risk of arrest if the companies don’t comply [with legal demands]”.

In a notice to Twitter that MediaNama reviewed, MEITY warned the company that there would be “consequences” if it did not comply with demands to block accounts that tweeted the hashtag “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide”. WSJ’s reporting indicated that other communications were far more direct than that, something the government denies. The Intermediary Rules subject companies who don’t comply to action under the IT Act and the Indian Penal Code, which contain criminal provisions.

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