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India expects Musk's Twitter to comply with new local rules

FILE PHOTO: The Twitter App loads on an iPhone in this illustration photograph

By Krishna N. Das

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter Inc will not change India's expectation that it must comply with the country's existing and upcoming new IT rules which will be published within days, a government minister told Reuters on Friday.

Over the past two years, Indian authorities have asked Twitter to act on content such as accounts supportive of an independent Sikh state, posts alleged to have spread misinformation about protests by farmers, and tweets critical of the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our rules and laws for intermediaries remain the same regardless of who owns the platforms," said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India’s minister of state for electronics and information technology. "So, the expectation of compliance with Indian laws and rules remains."

In July, Twitter had asked an Indian court to overturn some government orders to remove content from the platform.

Chandrasekhar said India’s amended IT rules would be released on Friday or Saturday after months of consultation. He did not respond directly to a question about the banning of individuals from Twitter, such as Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut.

Elon Musk took ownership of Twitter Inc on Friday and the self-described free speech absolutist has said his desire is to see the company have fewer limits on content that can be posted on the influential social media platform.

Ranaut, an ardent supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had her Twitter account banned for violating its rules on hateful conduct and abusive behaviour when in May last year she urged Modi to resort to gangster tactics to "tame" one of his political rivals.

The actress, who has won several top acting awards in India, shared requests from users who appealed to Musk to restore her Twitter account.

Ranaut and her team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. She had responded to the ban last year as white Americans trying to "enslave a brown person".

(Additional reporting by Tanvi Mehta. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Elaine Hardcastle)