You are here: Home » Current Affairs » News » National
Business Standard

Govt asks Twitter to block 1,178 accounts for farmer stir misinformation

The government has ordered Twitter to block 1,178 accounts with alleged links to Pakistan and Khalistan supporters

Twitter | Farmers protests | Centre

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Twitter | Representational image

The government has ordered to block 1,178 accounts with links to Pakistan and Khalistan supporters which were spreading misinformation and provocative content on farmers' protest, sources said.

The IT Ministry, on February 4, shared a list of these accounts that were flagged by security agencies as accounts of Khalistan sympathisers or backed by Pakistan and operating from foreign territories, and causing threat to public order amid the ongoing farmer stir, they said.

Many of these accounts were also automated bots that were used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative content on farmers' protests, sources said adding that has not yet complied with the latest order.

Earlier, the government had ordered Twitter to take down handles and hashtags that suggested a farmer genocide was being planned, saying such misinformation and inflammatory content will incite passion, and impact public order.

It has also warned Twitter of penal action in case of failure to comply with its directive. Twitter had blocked those accounts for few hours before unilaterally unblocking them.

At that time, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had asked the microblogging site to block 257 URLs (web addresses) and one hashtag under the relevant provision of the law as they were "spreading misinformation about (farmer) protests and has the potential to lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country."

Sources said while Twitter is yet to fully comply with the previous order, the government has issued another order asking the microblogging platform to block accounts backed by Pakistan and Khalistan supporters.

The IT Ministry's displeasure is also apparent over Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently liking several tweets made by foreign-based celebrities in support of farmer protest.

Source said the move casts aspersions over neutrality claims of the platform, and defiance of government orders by Twitter raises several questions.

Moreover, sources argued that any company is free to appeal against any government order if it feels it cannot comply with that order. Twitter has neither challenged any of these orders in any court of India nor complied with the government's directive, they pointed out.

In an e-mail response, Twitter spokesperson said the platform is guided by principles of transparency and empowering the public conversation.

"If we receive a valid legal request about potentially illegal content on Twitter, we review it under both the Twitter rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter's rules, the content will be removed from the service," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added: "If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter rules, we may withhold access to the content in the location only. In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they're aware we've received a legal order pertaining to the account.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Mon, February 08 2021. 14:13 IST