India has reportedly threatened to jail Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp employees if the firms don’t give up data regarding the farmers protests

Indian Farmers Protest
Members of human rights organisations hold placards in support of farmers during a protest against the central government’s recent agricultural reforms in Amritsar on December 10, 2020. Narinder Nanu/AFP via Getty Images
  • India is threatening to jail Twitter and Facebook employees, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The threats are to pressure the tech companies to give up data related to the farmers protests.
  • Indian farmers have been protesting since late 2020 after the country passed agriculture reforms. 
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India is reportedly threatening to jail WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook employees to pressure the firms into sharing data related to the farmers protests.

Sources told The Wall Street Journal the tech companies had been reluctant to provide India with the user data it requested. 

Indian farmers have staged a mass protest – among the largest in history – since late last year to demand the government repeal legislation that allowed farmers to sell directly to private buyers instead of selling to the government. Farmers argue selling to private buyers would drive down prices because the government guarantees a minimum price on all goods.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushed for the farming laws to modernize Indian agriculture, but the widespread protest has riled a key voting bloc. The tense protest has resulted in violence, arrests, and the government’s decision to cut internet for farmers.

The Indian government wrote letters to Facebook and Twitter citing specific employees in the country who risk jail time if the firms don’t comply, per The Journal.

Tech firms and the Indian government have clashed on multiple occasions during the demonstration. Twitter restricted, and later quietly restored, the accounts of journalists and activists sharing information about the protest. The firm then said it suspended up to 500 accounts flagged by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

“I politely remind the companies, whether it is Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp or anyone, they are free to work in India, do business, but they need to respect the Indian Constitution,” Ravi Shankar, the justice and technology minister, told India’s parliament.

Last year, Facebook invested a record $US5.7 ($7) billion in the Indian telecommunications firm Jio, an move that could extend its reach into the world’s second most populous country. India has more Facebook users than any other country, per CNN.

Facebook and Twitter did not provide additional comment to Insider.