Following Twitter’s alleged non-compliance with the Indian government’s directive to suspend accounts posting tweets related to the farmer protests in India, the government’s crackdown has now reached YouTube. The video streaming giant has removed several videos depicting songs and other images related to the protests, which have engulfed Delhi.
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. While its undeniable that that there is a lot of misleading posts circulating on social media, the Indian government has targeted major publications as well as farmers’ rights groups in the past.
According to a report by Chandigarh-based The Tribune, YouTube has removed 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. The publication claimed Asi vaddange has over 13 Mn views on YouTube.
Further, Medianama quoted a YouTube spokesperson as saying, “We comply with valid legal requests from authorities wherever possible, consistent with our longstanding policy and act quickly to remove identified content”.
The protests have seen plenty of activism online by individuals of Punjabi descent, given that a large number of the protesting farmers hail from the state. Earlier, many individuals in the states of Punjab and Haryana had lashed out against the controversial farm reforms laws by vandalising and sabotaging Reliance Jio telecom towers in the states.
The controversy around online content related to the farmer protests has become a political slugfest, with state governments looking to amp up the pressure on the centre. Weighing into the Twitter India and farm bill protest controversy, the Maharashtra government said earlier this week that is looking to probe alleged coercion by the central government in tweets by celebrities such as former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar as well as singer Lata Mangeshkar, which supported the farm reform laws.
The tweets in question came last week after several international personalities made public statements on Twitter in support of the protesting farmers. The state government is now looking at whether celebrities were coerced into making the tweets.
The situation took on an international tinge, after statements backing the protests from singer and actress Rihanna, environment activist Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris, the niece of the US Vice President Kamala Harris, among other international personalities. The government responded with an official statement condemning some of these tweets, while a number of Indian celebrities also joined the fray.
Besides Tendulkar and Mangeshkar, the likes of actor Akshay Kumar, filmmaker Karan Johar and the Indian cricket team head coach Ravi Shastri tweeted in support of the government.
The situation had already spiralled out of control when Twitter reportedly refused to comply with the Indian government’s directive for suspending or removing accounts alleged to have incited violence through tweets, alluding to a genocide of farmers. The IT ministry is said to have issued a fresh takedown notice to Twitter to remove 1,178 Twitter accounts in relation to the massive farmers’ protests.
The government has alleged that these accounts have been flagged by security agencies as belonging to supporters of the erstwhile Khalistan separatist movement or “backed by Pakistan”.