Social Media

Twitter Suspends Over 500 Accounts, Blocks Many in India After Government Warning

Twitter said it has taken action on about 500 accounts and decreased visibility of some hashtags in India to fulfill several orders from the Indian government after the Indian Government threatened legal action against executives with the US social network Twitter for not obeying its notices.

Twitter has started blocking accounts flagged by the Indian Government for allegedly spreading misinformation and provocative content in connection with the protest by farmers’ unions against new farm laws in the country. Twitter also said it is also reducing the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content.

Though, the company made it clear that the Twitter handles are only being blocked in India and they will remain visible outside of the country as it believes orders by the Indian Government are inconsistent with local law. Twitter said account snews media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians were not taken down. Twitter said, “Suspending the accounts will violate India’s fundamental right to free expression. We informed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) of our enforcement actions.” Twitter has reached out to MeitY for dialogue and also acknowledged the MeitY letter.

The change came in days after the IT Ministry of India said Twitter needs to follow the directions and refusal to do so might invite penal action.

Twitter had suspended hundreds of Twitter accounts, several with links to farmers’ protests on agricultural reforms, at the request of the Indian Government early last week, but then reversed its decision within hours citing users’ freedom of speech. The company said that it was re-suspending most of those accounts, in some cases, permanently, and preventing certain terms from appearing in the Trends section.

In one of its orders to Twitter early this month, the Government of India had expressed concerns that many users were sharing false statements and provocative messages. During its brief period of compliance with the order last week, Twitter had suspended handles of several high-profile accounts of journalists, political commentators, activists, actors, and politicians.

Twitter said, “In the last 10 days, we were served with many orders by MeitY, Government of India, under Section 69A of Information Technology Act. Out of these, two were emergency blocking orders that we temporarily complied with but subsequently restored access to the content in a way that we believe was consistent with Indian law. After we communicated with MeitY, we were served with a non-compliance notice.”

Millions of farmers have been protesting in New Delhi’s over new laws for more than two months. Twitter reaches more than 75 million users in India and is likely now an important online platform for people to voice their opinion.

Even Iconic singer and Hollywood actor Rihanna tweeted a news story last week about the protests and asked “Why aren’t we talking about this!?” The Government of India is firm that the new laws are in favor of farmers and will streamline the agricultural supply chain.

Several users had also tweeted using hashtags aiming at the new agriculture reforms. The company said these accounts and hashtags violated the Twitter rules and incited violence and abuse.

The company said, “We will advocate for the right of free expression. We are committed to safeguarding the conversation on Twitter, and firmly believe that the Tweets should flow.”

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