Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Government asks Twitter to pull down 1,178 accounts

On 31 January, the Narendra Modi government had sent a list of 257 handles and tweets to be blocked for trying to incite mobs on Republic Day

Giving the social media giant a taste of its own medicine of censorship due to “community standards”, the Narendra Modi government has directed microblogging site Twitter to remove 1,178 “Pakistani-Khalistani accounts spreading misinformation and provocative content on farmers agitation,” sources said. They said the government cited Indian laws that did not permit making such posts in the public space — in order to maintain law and order and preserve communal harmony in society.

Sources said further that Twitter was yet to completely comply with orders.

Previously, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had on 31 January sent a list of 257 handles and tweets to be blocked for inciting mobs on Republic Day. Twitter blocked these accounts for a few hours before unilaterally unblocking them shortly after.

On 4 February, the ministry shared the fresh list flagged by security agencies as accounts of Khalistan sympathisers or backed by Pakistan and operating from foreign territories, threatening public order amid the farmers’ protest.

“Many of these accounts were automated bots that were used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative contents on farmers’ protests,” a source said.

A few days ago, Twitter global CEO Jack Dorsey had “liked” several tweets made by foreign-based celebrities in support of farmer protests, sources said. In view of this, the platform’s defiance of the government’s order to block the accounts raises several questions.

“The government objects to Twitter CEO liking some tweets by celebrities as it raises questions on his neutrality,” the source said.

Earlier, the MHA had summoned officials of Twitter — along with Facebook — to explain its censorship standard that made it suspend the account of Home Minister Amit Shah in 2020.

The latest move comes amid the “toolkit” controversy surrounding the farmer protest. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg had last week tweeted a “toolkit” which she later deleted. This document, according to the police, aimed to spread disaffection and ill-will against the government of India and sought to create disharmony among various social, religious, and cultural groups.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on 6 February said there was a reason why his ministry reacted to the remarks of celebrities like Thunberg.

“I think it (“toolkit”) has revealed a lot. We have to wait and see what comes out. You can see there was a reason why the foreign ministry reacted to the statements which some celebrities gave out on matters on which they obviously didn’t know very much,” Jaishankar said.

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