Farmers protest: Government orders Twitter to remove over 1,100 accounts for spreading misinformation

The Government of India has ordered microblogging site Twitter to block 1,178 accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation on farmers’ protest. The Union IT Ministry gave Twitter a list of 1,178 accounts that were flagged by security agencies as having links with supporters of Pakistan or being run by Khalistan sympathisers. The Government said that the accounts were being operated from foreign territories, and were spreading misinformation as well as provocative content regarding the farmers’ protest, causing a threat to the public order. Among these accounts were also some automated bots which were being used for sharing and amplification of misinformation and inflammatory content.

However, Twitter has not yet complied with the Government’s order.

Twitter had earlier been ordered by the ministry to take down hashtags and handles that were indicating the planning of a farmer genocide and had said that the propagation of such provocative content could impact public order and incite violence. The ministry had handed over a list of 257 URLs and one hashtag which needed to be blocked under the relevant legal section. The microblogging site had also been warned of penal action if it did not go through with the Government’s order, and so, Twitter had blocked such accounts before unblocking them a few hours later.

The new order has now come even as the microblogging site is yet to completely comply with the older one. Reports have also suggested that the ministry is not happy with the fact that Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, has recently liked several tweets supporting farmer protests posted by foreign celebrities.

The Government is of the view that this move of Dorsey brings under question Twitter’s claim of being a neutral and unbiased platform, which is only augmented by the fact that Twitter has not completely complied with previous orders.

However, Twitter has said that any request of such kind received by the platform is checked for validity under the local law as well as the rules that govern the platform. In case the flagged content is found to be in violation of the Twitter rules, the content is removed from the platform. On the other hand, if the content does not violate Twitter’s rules but violates the law of the land, the access to the content may be withheld in that certain location only. However, in both courses of action, the holder of the account is informed directly by Twitter regarding the legal request the platform received.

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