UPDATED: February 8, 2021 10:56 IST
While Twitter is yet to comply with an earlier missive, the Indian government has sent a list of another 1178 accounts to the social media company that it wants removed or blocked from Twitter. Sources say that these accounts are being run from Pakistan and that they were tweeting about the ongoing farmers’ protests. The latest list has been sent to Twitter on February 4.
Sources said 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.
Twitter so far has not acted on the latest complaints from the Indian government. Earlier on January 31, the government had sent a list of 257 tweets and accounts that it wanted blocked in India. Twitter initially, most likely after prompting from its India team, complied with the order. However, a few hours later when the blocking of accounts, which included accounts of Caravan magazine, a popular Bollywood actor and many activists, created buzz and talk of censorship, Twitter reversed the decision.
Sources within Twitter told India Today Tech that the ban on the accounts was interim. Twitter had blocked these accounts in the interim in response to a valid legal request from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology pending discussions with them, sources told India Today Tech.
During the meeting with the concerned officials, Twitter apparently conveyed that the content is free speech and newsworthy. Protecting public conversation and Transparency is fundamental to the work we do at Twitter, the content has been unblocked, they added.
The decision from Twitter led to Indian government sending a fresh notice to the company, asking it to comply with its previous order.
It is not yet clear if Twitter will take any action against the accounts flagged off by the government in its latest directive to the company. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is clearly aware of the farmers’ protests in India, as hinted by his “Liking” of a couple of tweets made in favour of the farmers, and it is possible that Twitter may take a stand contrary to the government position on this issue.
Twitter has so far also not yet challenged any of these orders in any court of India. According to lawful provisions, a social media company is free to appeal against any government order if it feels it cannot comply with that order.