The government of India (GOI) has asked Twitter to block 1,178 accounts, suspected to be linked to Khalistan sympathisers or backed by Pakistan as per a TOI report. The demand has been made by the IT ministry after it received an advisory from MHA and security agencies, sources to TOI said.
As per sources to TOI “The accounts ordered blocked are of Khalistan sympathisers, or those backed by Pakistan and operating from foreign territories… Many of the accounts are also automated bots that were used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative contents on farmers protests”.
Reports suggest that these accounts were flagged by security agencies as accounts of Khalistan sympathisers or backed by Pakistan and operating from foreign territories, causing threat to public order by tweeting on ongoing farmers protests. They said that many of these accounts were also automated bots that were used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative contents on farmers protests.
Earlier Twitter had blocked 257 accounts that were mentioned in the list provided by GOI last week. The accounts were accused of instigating posts related to farmer protests and for sharing false information aimed at fueling separatism.
On Feb 1st, the IT ministry had sent its first notice which read, “Twitter is an intermediary and they are obliged to obey directions of the government. Refusal to do so will invite penal action”. The government said that the “motivated campaigns” and the hashtag being mentioned by the 257 accounts were being run to “abuse, inflame and create tension in society on unsubstantiated grounds.”
“Incitement to genocide is not freedom of speech; It is threat to law and order. Delhi had witnessed violence on Republic Day,” the government said.
But the accounts were reinstated soon by Twitter in defiance of the request from the government. In support of its action, Twitter had said that it had decided to reinstate most of the accounts as the tweets sent out by them constituted “free speech and are newsworthy”.
The government responded to defiance by Twitter and said “It may be noted that as per the relevant provisions of Indian law, the intermediary (Twitter in this case) is bound to comply with the order of the Designated Officer authorized by the Central Government, and in case of non-compliance, statutory consequences shall follow.”
Twitter has been accused of political bias in India several times. The platform has been alleged to be favorable to Left-leaning handles and hostile to nationalistic handles and content. It was also accused of taking sides during the recent ‘farmer protests’ which was further in spotlight after it’s CEO Jack Dorsey was found “Liking” several tweets made in favour of the violent protests in the name of farmers in India.