Centre issues notice to Twitter over reinstating blocked accounts  

The Government has warned Twitter of consequence if it doesn't take action against content on ‘Farmer Genocide Hashtag’

social media

The Centre has issued a notice to social media platform Twitter to comply with its order to remove content and accounts spreading “fake news” on farmers’ protests in India. This is in response to Twitter “unilaterally” unblocking over 250 such accounts despite being given specific orders by the Government to block them.

According to the India Express, the notice stated that the “impracticability or the disproportionality of the said measure cannot be decided (by) Twitter which is an intermediary bound by the orders of the Central Government.” The Information Technology Ministry said that Twitter is an intermediary and is obliged to obey “the direction of the government and refusal to do so will invite penal action under Section 69A of the Act.”

Under section 69A, the Government has the power to ban any website that threatens India’s defence, its sovereignty and integrity, friendly relations with foreign countries and public order. On February 1, Twitter, without any prior notice, removed around 100 Twitter accounts and 150 tweets related to the farmers’ protests on the IT Ministry’s direction. However, the media reported that the accounts were unblocked late Monday night on February 1, after a meeting with IT Ministry officials.

Some Government officials told The Indian Express, “Yes, Twitter tried to push back against the order, but we have not changed anything. You can’t write that the PM is carrying out a genocide on farmers and get away with it. Twitter needs to implement this. People can’t go on insulting the Prime Minister of the land like this”, after the meeting ended on February 1.

As reported by The Wire, the notice reads: “It is reiterated that the blocking committee had confirmed the earlier decision to block the URLs/hashtags. After the hearing was concluded on 1/2/2021 also, the interim order continued to remain in operation despite which you chose not to comply to the mandate of law and the order passed by the competent authority, legally endowed with the jurisdiction to pass the same. Instead, you chose to send a communication attempting to give justification thereby not only admitting that you have not complied with the order but also seeking to justify non-compliance. Finally, it needs to be mentioned that 69A provided for specific consequences on case of non-compliance of directions issued under section 69A of the Act.”

Among the accounts that were suspended include those of Kisan Ekta Morcha and Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), The Caravan Magazine, Prasar Bharti CEO Sashi Shekhar and others.

Meanwhile, the farmers’ struggle has received worldwide recognition with American singer Rihanna, environmental activist Greta Thunberg, lawyer-author Meena Harris (niece of Kamala Harris) tweeting in solidarity with the farmers on Twitter. In response to this, the Ministry of External Affairs has issued a statement against sensationalist social media hashtags and comments from celebrities and others that are neither “accurate nor responsible”.





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