Twitter blocks over 80 posts, handles after Centre’s orders

Twitter blocks over 80 posts, handles after Centre’s orders

Social media company Twitter has blocked access to over 80 links on its website, mostly specific posts but also a large number of accounts, heeding to legal notices by the government through 2021 over content relating to the farmers’ protests, Pakistani government accounts, and a report by a prominent American non-profit that said internet freedom in India was in decline.

Some of these blocks – technically a geo-block that Twitter classifies as Country Withheld, which refers to restricting access in a particular geography instead of a complete takedown – were rolled out over the weekend. The action was in response to 24 legal directions sent by the government over 2021, according to Twitter’s disclosure to the Lumen database, an internet transparency archive.

The Lumen disclosure said the government cited the Information Technology Act, and a person associated with Twitter, who asked not to be named, added that the move was consistent with the company’s Country Withheld policy since it “may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in response to a valid legal demand”.

The withholdings are limited to the specific jurisdiction/country where the content is determined to be illegal, this person said.

The Union ministry of electronics and technology (Meity) did not respond to requests for a comment. Twitter did not respond to requests for a comment.

Among the accounts taken down were Kisan Ekta Morcha and Tractor 2 Twitter, two that were active during the farm protests and with over 500,000 follows in all. Kisan Ekta Morcha also posted a controversial hashtag last year that seemed to accuse the government of plotting to kill farmers.

Five tweets by American non-profit Freedom House too were taken down. These posts related to Freedom House’s Freedom on The Net, 2020 report, which spoke of falling internet access liberties for people around the world. The report identified India as the country with the most internet shutdowns.

Among the other prominent content pieces withheld was a tweet by journalist Rana Ayyub, who made a remark in connection with a court ordering a survey of the Gyanvapi mosque last year.

“Another attack by the Government of India on the rights of farmers and workers,” the Kisan Ekta Morcha posted on its Instagram account shortly after.

Ravi Azad, a young leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), which was among the organisations that led the farm protests, said: “The government has banned Kisan Ekta Morcha’s Twitter handle that takes the voice of farmers to the global level. Anti-farmer activities are revealed through this account with facts and evidence. We condemn this action.”

Joginder Singh Ugrahan, the president of BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan), said the ban was an act of suppression of the voice of farmers and people. “This is in violation of our democratic rights and freedom of speech. I strongly condemn this anti-people move,” he said.

Experts called on the government to disclose reasons for why the legal requests were sent. “Citizens have the right to challenge blocking of online content, but they are unable to do so without access to these orders. Thus, we have consistently advocated for such disclosures as they are crucial for holding the government accountable,” said the Internet Freedom Foundation in a statement on Twitter.

According to Rule 16 of the Information Technology Blocking rules, 2019, the reasons for why the government has requested content to be blocked or taken down need to be confidential.

Source By: hindustantimes

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