Twitter has begun complying with the government orders to clamp down on certain accounts and tweets related to the farmer protests. The government has claimed that the accounts are posting content that’s provoking separatist sentiment or are being run by organisations or individuals in Pakistan and are allegedly spreading misinformation about farmer protests as well as the controversial farm laws.
The social media platform said it did not take any action on accounts belonging to news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians, despite being directed by the government, as such a request is not consistent with Indian laws on freedom of expression.
“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,” the company said.
“To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law. We informed MeitY of our enforcement actions today, February 10, 2021,” Twitter added.
Twitter said over 500 accounts were removed, out of the 1,178 Twitter accounts, flagged by the government as belonging to Khalistan sympathisers or being backed by Pakistan. “Separately, today, we have withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under our Country Withheld Content policy within India only. These accounts continue to be available outside of India,” the social media platform said.
India Polices Online Content
After Twitter’s alleged non-compliance last week, the Indian government had considered stricter penal action against the company and its employees, including a potential seven-year jail sentence. The government had also taken particular note of Twitter CEO and cofounder Jack Dorsey ‘liking’ tweets by celebrities that tweeted against the farm laws and supported the farmer protests.
With protests raging in the Indian capital since November 2020 and gaining international recognition in recent weeks, there has been a lot of push back from the government to tackle not just the criticism but also the rampant misinformation in relation to the issue.
Besides Twitter, the government’s crackdown also included songs and videos on YouTube. The video streaming giant removed several videos depicting songs and other images related to the protests, which have engulfed Delhi. This included videos such as singer Kanwar Grewal’s Ailaan, which has over 60 Lakh views on YouTube, as well as Himmat Sandhu’s Asi vaddange, which was released in November 2020. As per reports, Asi vaddange has over 13 Mn views on YouTube.