Hours after it was pulled up by the government for non-compliance, Twitter has blocked nearly 97% of the handles flagged by the IT ministry. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had directed the micro-blogging platform to take down 1,435 accounts in two separate orders for allegedly spreading misinformation on farmers’ protest.
Of the 1,435 flagged accounts, 1,398 have been blocked by Twitter, according to a new The Times of India report. Twitter was not immediately available for a comment on the matter.
The action comes after a meeting between IT secretary Ajay Sawhney and top executives of the California-headquartered company on Wednesday evening.
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In the meeting, the secretary had expressed India’s strong displeasure on the way Twitter “unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts” of its emergency order to remove the hashtag “farmer genocide” and all related content from its platform. Sawhney had also raised serious concerns over Twitter’s “differential treatment” in the way it handled the Capitol Hill episode in the US and the January 26 disturbance at Red Fort in India.
Reminding Twitter that lawfully passed orders were binding on any business entity, the secretary had told its representatives that freedom of expression was not absolute and that it was subject to reasonable restrictions. Responsible entities like Twitter, must not only reaffirm but remain committed to compliance to the law of land, the secretary had reiterated.
Previously, Twitter had confirmed that it had permanently suspended more than 500 accounts for violating its rules and withheld “a portion” of accounts flagged by MeitY.
The reason why Twitter had only “withheld” these accounts was because “we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.”
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The government of India however said that the way the platform allowed “fake, unverified, anonymous and automated bot accounts” raised doubts about “its commitment to transparency and healthy conversation on this platform.”
“Spreading misinformation using an incendiary and baseless hashtag referring to ‘farmer genocide’ at a time when such irresponsible content can provoke and inflame the situation is neither journalistic freedom nor freedom of expression.”