Social Media

Misinformation on farmers' stir: Twitter blocks over 97% of accounts, posts flagged by IT Ministry

PTI New Delhi | Updated on February 12, 2021

Govt has questioned Twitter’s quick response to the US Capitol Hill incident and delayed action in the Indian context.

Twitter has blocked over 97 per cent of the accounts and posts flagged by the IT Ministry for provocative content and misinformation around farmers' protest, sources said.

This followed a meeting between Twitter representatives and the Information Technology Secretary on Wednesday evening. The US-based microblogging platform was issued a stern warning to comply with local laws or be prepared for action.

 

The Ministry had questioned Twitter's delay in taking action on its order to block provocative content that could impact public law and order. In contrast, the American company had been quick to crack down when a similar instance occurred at US Capitol Hill.

According to the sources, Twitter has now complied with the orders and over 97 per cent of the accounts flagged have been blocked.

Twitter did not respond to queries on the matter.

 

Accounts linked to Pakistan

On February 4, Twitter was asked to take down 1,178 accounts with links to Pakistan and Khalistan supporters that spread misinformation and provocative content related to farmers' protest.

Before that, the government had sought to block257 tweets and handles connected with farmers’ agitation over the new agricultural laws. Twitter had complied with the orders only to restore the accounts hours later.

Twitter on Wednesday morning had said it has suspended over 500 accounts and blocked access to several others within India, but maintained that it would not block accounts of "news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians" as doing so "would violate their fundamental right to free expression" guaranteed under the country's law.

It, however, yielded to the orders later after the crucial meeting on Wednesday evening.

In a statement after the meeting, IT Ministry had stated that the microblogging platform had been asked to take strong action against "well-coordinated" campaigns "designed to create disharmony and unrest" in the country.

Committed to Indian laws: Twitter

Monique Meche, Twitter Vice President Global Public Policy and Jim Baker, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President Legal, had affirmed Twitter's commitment towards following Indian laws and rules.

The executives had also requested for better engagement between the Indian government and the company's global team. Sources said Twitter's latest move to block the flagged accounts is a validation that the government's orders were backed by sound reasoning and logic.

The government had made it clear that it will not negotiate with the platforms while insisting on compliance with its orders. It believed that a private commercial entity in India could not unilaterally decide on public law and order, ignoring the democratic values.

IT Ministry believed that Twitter, being an intermediary, was required to take immediate action after receiving the government's notice to block handles, but did not move with haste to take down "atrocious" hashtags and "incendiary" content even amid a volatile situation.

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently emphasised that the government is all for freedom of speech and expression and remains investor-friendly, but disrespecting democratic values is not acceptable.

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Published on February 12, 2021
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