WASHINGTON  - The United States on Thursday urged India to respect freedom of expression after the government threatened to take action against Twitter over content alleged to have inflamed ethnic tensions.“As the Indian government seeks to preserve security, we are urging them also to take into account the importance of freedom of expression in the online world,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.Nuland stopped short of directly criticizing potential action against Twitter, saying that the microblogging site and other US firms such as Facebook and Google were in talks with Indian authorities.“The unique characteristics of the online environment (need) to be respected even as they work through whether there are things these companies can do to help calm the environment,” she said.Nuland said the United States was “in constant contact” with the Internet companies and was “ready to be helpful if we can.”The Indian government has blamed Internet sites for spreading rumors that Muslims in Bangalore and other southern cities would attack migrants from northeastern India, causing tens of thousands to flee back home.Indian authorities have threatened unspecified “appropriate action” unless Twitter and other social networking sites remove “inflammatory and harmful” material.The United States rarely criticizes India, the world’s largest democracy, with which it has been building a closer relationship since the late 1990s.