Twitter wars: Government of India warns tech giant after it reinstates blocked accounts

The government of India has sent a notice to Twitter for restoring a number of accounts, posting in support of the farmers’ protests, despite the IT Ministry directive and warned of consequences “of non-compliance of directions issued under section 69A of the Act”.

Earlier, nearly 100 Twitter accounts and 150 tweets, belonging to various individuals, groups and media organisations from all spheres were withheld by the social media site in response to legal demands on Monday, February 1.

News agency ANI, quoting their sources, said the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) had directed Twitter to block around 250 tweets/Twitter accounts, which the government claimed were using #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag and making ‘fake and intimidating’ tweets on 30 January, prompting confusion and anger among users who are seeking an explanation for this action.

In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson said, “many countries have laws that may apply to Tweets and/or Twitter account content. In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time. Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notice policy for withheld content.”

After nearly six hours of being withheld, several Twitter accounts including The Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha-a joint front representing the farmers protesting against the Centre’s agricultural laws, CPI(M) leader Md Salim’s and several farmer leaders’ were quietly restored on Monday evening.

“Is this tweet visible to Indian accounts?” tweeted Kisan Ekta Morcha, to verify if it had gained access.

Caravan also shared two posts in a span of two hours. Activist Hansraj Meena, among various others whose accounts were suspended, confirmed that their handles have been restored.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions, had denounced Twitter’s action of suspending accounts.

“The government does not want facts to reach the protesting farmers, it is fearful of the coordinated work of the farmers’ unions across different protest sites…this is undemocratic and illegal” it stated.

On Saturday, police had also arrested a contributor to the Caravan magazine while he was covering the clashes between farmers and the authority forces at the Singhu border.

The journalist Mandeep Punia was accused of misbehaving with a station house officer. Caravan magazine’s Executive Editor Vinod K Jose said they were not informed about the action and will be writing to the social media platform for further clarity.

The move came amid police action against several journalists after reports on the farmers’ Republic Day tractor rally.

Several states have registered cases against journalists who reported that a protestor who died during the rally was allegedly shot by the police.

According to Twitter’s policies, an account can only be withheld based on a valid legal demand such as a court order. Till now, it is unclear which court in India has issued such an order.

The news agency further said that according to their sources, “this was done on the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs and law enforcement agencies to prevent any escalation of law and order in view of the ongoing farmer agitation.”

Twitter, which has amassed about 75 million users in India, has faced criticism about the way it handles its operations in the country, for a pretty long time.

Unlike in the United States, Twitter has failed to perform content moderation in India, with activists accusing twitter of favouring the government.


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