Twitter has withheld blocked several accounts and tweets on its platform after the Centre asked it to take action against 250 handles for spreading “false and provocative content” apparently related to the ongoing anti-agri reforms agitation by farmers.
The accounts found blocked on Twitter on Monday include those of Kisan Ekta Morcha and BKU Ekta Urgahan, which have thousands of followers. These unions are active participants in the ongoing protest. Besides, Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Sekhar Vempati’s account too was found blocked on Monday, prompting a query from his organisation.
Sources said that the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) directed Twitter to block around 250 tweets/Twitter accounts that were making ‘fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets’ on January 30 with hashtags accusing the Modi government of planning farmers ‘genocide’ without any further substantiation.
This blocking was done at the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs and law enforcement agencies to prevent any escalation of law and order in view of the ongoing farmers’ protest, said the sources, adding that these tweets/accounts have now been blocked.
Sources said that incitement to genocide is a grave threat to public order and therefore, MeitY had ordered blocking of these Twitter accounts and tweets under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
When contacted, a Twitter spokesperson said that if it receives a “properly scoped request” from an authorised entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”
“Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notice policy for withheld content. Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify the affected account holders (unless we are prohibited from doing so egs. if we receive a court order under seal),” the spokesperson added.
However, Twitter did not provide details of the accounts/tweets that were blocked. When searched for the accounts including Kisan Ekta Morcha (@Kisanektamorcha) and BKU Ekta Urgahan (@Bkuektaugrahan), it displayed a message saying “account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand.”
Besides these, several other individual and organisation accounts were also withheld, even as debates started on social media over the development. On the blocking of Prasar Bharati CEO’s account, the organisation asked Twitter to explain the reason and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi condemned the move saying it “victimsed the person who told you to take the right step.” “It shows how artificial is artificial intelligence,” she said, according to ANI.
The development comes in the wake of the violence in Delhi on January 26 during a tractor parade of farmers, protesting against the three new central agriculture laws. Delhi Police is currently probing the Republic Day violence and has lodged multiple FIRs and booked many farmer leaders leading the protests at the national capital’s borders since November-end.
(With inputs from agencies)