Hours after Twitter on Monday withheld several accounts in India, it’s begun slowly restoring the grips. Among those reports that were withheld before in the day were Caravan magazine along with Kisan Ekta Morcha, a joint front representing the farmers protesting against the Centre’s agricultural laws. Twitter had started its action was in response to a lawful demand.
“Is this tweet observable to Indian accounts” Tweeted Kisan Ekta Morcha, to verify if it’d gained access. Caravan also shared two articles in a period of 2 hours. Activist Hansraj Meena, among various other people whose accounts have been suspended, confirmed that their manages have been restored.
Citing sources, ANI reported previously in the afternoon that the balances have been withheld depending on the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs and law enforcement agencies to avoid any escalation of the law and order situation during the farmers’ agitation.
“Ministry of Electronics and IT directed Twitter to block around 250 tweets/Twitter accounts that were using #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag and making bogus, intimidatory and fascinating tweets on January 30,” the news agency said.
The Ministry of Electronics & IT ordered that the accounts and tweets be blocked under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, based on ANI. But, The Hindu, citing sources, reported that Twitter was anticipated to challenge the order since the accounts weren’t in breach of its own policy.
— Vinod K. Jose (@vinodjose) February 1, 2021
Nearly 250 accounts tweeting, or retweeting, together with the #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag were obstructed, NDTV reported.
The move came amid police actions against many journalists following reports on the farmers’ Republic Day tractor rally. Several nations have registered cases against journalists who reported that a protestor who expired during the rally was supposedly shot by law enforcement.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions, had denounced Twitter’s actions. “The government doesn’t want facts to reach the protesting farmers,” it said. “It’s fearful of this coordinated function of these farmers’ unions across distinct protest sites. . .this is undemocratic and illegal”
On Saturday, the authorities had also arrested a contributor to the Caravan magazine while he had been covering the clashes in the Singhu border. Mandeep Punia was accused of misbehaving with a station house officer.
Caravan magazine Executive Editor Vinod K Jose said they were not informed about the action. “You can still get the magazine from the website,” he added.
Twitter had also withheld the accounts of writer Sanjukta Basu and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammed Salim.
Basu affirmed her account was revived while asking many others that confronted the exact same problem to talk about their tales. “It sounds my account is revived,” Basu tweeted. “I want to do a story on the issue. Please connect with me if your account was blocked in India or suspended” Salim, after gaining access to his account, criticized the Centre by calling the movement”shameful”. He alleged that the Centre was restricting Twitter handles that were expressing solidarity with the protesting farmers.
Other reports that have blocked are those of Prasar Bharati chief Shashi Shekhar Vempati, economist Ajit Ranade, parody account @EpicRoflDon, celebrity Sushant Singh, Aam Aadmi Party MLA Jarnail Singh, and many others.
Some more accounts associated with the farmers’ protest were also been obstructed. CPI(M) Puducherry’s handle was also withheld. But, it’s not yet confirmed if all Twitter has restored access to all the reports.
Several journalists and scholars chose to Twitter to criticize the withholding of their accounts.
Can you imagine Twitter or any other platform company doing something like this in the US, France, or Germany, withholding e.g. Atlantic, Nouvel Obs, or Spiegel, with no real transparency about legal demands received?
Troubling to see profound inequality in platform governance. https://t.co/D4iaGYtK14
— Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (@rasmus_kleis) February 1, 2021
Twitter’s policy states that it may be required to withhold accounts in the event of a”valid and correctly scoped request from an authorized entity. “Such withholdings will be restricted to the specific jurisdiction that has issued the legal requirement or where the material was found to violate local law(s),” the policy says.
It includes: “Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we’ve got a noted policy for withheld content. Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will immediately notify affected users unless we’re prohibited from doing this (e.g., if we receive a court order under seal).”
But many scholars pointed out that the system firm’s policies are inconsistently implemented across countries.