BENGALURU (Reuters) – Elon Musk said on Wednesday that he did not know “what exactly happened” when Twitter took down content related to a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year, adding that some rules related to social media content were “quite strict” in India.
In January, India ordered the blocking of a BBC documentary which questioned Modi’s leadership during the 2002 Gujarat riots, saying that even sharing of any clips via social media was barred.
The government had issued orders to Twitter to block over 50 tweets linking to the video of the documentary, Kanchan Gupta, an adviser to the government, had said.
While the BBC had not aired the documentary in India, the video was uploaded on some YouTube channels, Gupta had said.
“I am not aware of this particular situation… don’t know what exactly happened with some content situation in India,” Musk said in an interview with the BBC broadcast live on Twitter Spaces, when asked if the site took down some content at the behest of the Indian government.
“The rules in India for what can appear on social media are quite strict and we can’t go beyond the laws of the country,” he said.
The documentary focused on Modi’s leadership as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat during riots in 2002 in which at least 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims.
Activists put the toll at more than twice that number.
“If we have a choice of either our people go to prison or we comply with the laws, we will comply with the laws…” Musk said.
India’s regulatory scrutiny of various U.S. tech firms such as Twitter, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Amazon.com Inc, have hurt the business environment in a key growth market, prompting some companies to rethink expansion plans, Reuters has reported.
Indian authorities have in the past 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.
(Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee)