Twitter gets government notice for unblocking accounts backing farmers' protest

Siddhant Pandey
·3-min read

Twitter gets government notice for unblocking accounts backing farmers
Twitter gets government notice for unblocking accounts backing farmers

03 Feb 2021: Twitter gets government notice for unblocking accounts backing farmers' protest

The central government is reportedly sending a notice to Twitter for reinstating dozens of accounts backing the farmers' protest despite its directive.

Earlier on Monday, several Twitter accounts including those of Kisan Ekta Morcha and The Caravan magazine were withheld only to be unblocked later that night.

Reportedly, the government had never changed its order to allow the accounts to be unblocked.

Context: 100 Twitter accounts, 150 tweets were blocked Monday morning

Around 100 Twitter accounts and 150 tweets relating to the farmers' protests were withheld on Monday morning in line with a directive from India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

After officials of Twitter and the Ministry met Monday evening, the accounts were reinstated as Twitter said the content constituted "free speech" and was "newsworthy."

Problem: 'Twitter tried to push back, but we didn't change order'

However, government sources had told The Indian Express on Monday evening that they had not changed their order in the meeting.

"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," the source said, urging Twitter to comply with the order.

Fact: 'Most accounts had tweeted with hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide'

The source added, "Twitter needs to implement this (order). People can't go on insulting the Prime Minister of the land like this." According to the sources TIE spoke to, most accounts withheld had tweeted with the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide.

Twitter: Temporarily withheld accounts in response to valid legal request: Twitter

Meanwhile, sources in Twitter told the publication, "Pending our discussions with the regulatory authorities, we temporarily withheld these accounts in India under our Country Withheld Content policy in response to a valid legal request from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology."

The sources said the move to withhold the accounts and tweets was reversed after subsequent meetings with officials.

Fact: 'Protecting public conversation, transparency fundamental'

The sources were quoted as saying, "...The accounts and tweets in question constitute free speech and are newsworthy. Therefore, these tweets and accounts have now been unwithheld. Protecting public conversation and transparency is fundamental to the work we do at Twitter."

IT Act: What does Section 69A of IT Act state?

Rules under Section 69A of the IT Act empower the government to block public access to information from a computer "in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above."

Fact: Which accounts had been withheld?

The accounts that were suspended included those of Kisan Ekta Morcha and Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), The Caravan magazine, Prasar Bharti CEO Sashi Shekhar Vempati, Aam Aadmi Party MLA Jarnail Singh, CPI(M) leader Md Salim, activist Hansraj Meena, and actor Sushant Singh.