The refusal of various tech companies to pass data to the Indian government could have consequences for their employees. According to a report shared by the Wall Street Journal, authorities in that country have threatened to Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp prison workers if companies do not provide data on farmer protests.
The Indian farmers have been protesting since late 2020 after country adopted agricultural reforms. The protests are calling for the repeal of legislation that allowed farmers to sell directly to private buyers instead of selling to the government.
Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter threatened by Indian government
The protests were one of the largest in history in India, with several acts of violence, arrests and the government’s decision to shut down the internet for farmers.
Twitter restricted, then quietly re-established, the accounts of journalists and activists who shared information about the protest. The firm later said it had suspended up to 500 accounts reported by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.
Ravi Shankar, Minister of Justice and Technology, addressed the Indian parliament, regarding the performance of social media during the protests.
“I remind companies, be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp or anyone else, that they are free to work in India, to do business, but they must respect the Indian Constitution.”
According to the Wall Street Journal publication:
“The warnings are a direct response to the reluctance of tech companies to comply with data and government withdrawal requests linked to protests by Indian farmers that made international headlines, people say. “
The same outlet shared the two companies’ responses to government requests. A spokesperson for WhatsApp said the company is complying with data requests that meet internationally recognized standards.
For his part, a spokesperson for Facebook said the company “responds to government data requests in accordance with applicable law and our terms of service.”. However, and as to the direct threat from their employees, they have not made any statements.