India warns Twitter to comply with orders to block accounts posting about farmers' protest

Published February 3, 2021
Security officers push back people shouting slogans during a protest held to show support to farmers who have been on a months-long protest, in New Delhi, India on February 3, 2021.— AP
Security officers push back people shouting slogans during a protest held to show support to farmers who have been on a months-long protest, in New Delhi, India on February 3, 2021.— AP

India has written to Twitter warning the platform to comply with orders to block accounts and content related to a protest by farmers, a technology ministry source said on Wednesday.

Twitter blocked dozens of accounts in India, including that of a leading news magazine, on Monday after the government said that users were posting content aimed at inciting violence.

But it later unblocked some of these accounts.

“Twitter unilaterally unblocked accounts, tweets despite the government's order. Twitter is an intermediary and they are obliged to obey the direction of the government,” the source, who declined to be named as the notice sent to Twitter was not public, told Reuters.

India's Home Affairs Ministry had demanded the suspension of “close to 250 Twitter accounts” that were allegedly posting content that sought to foment violence, a government official previously told Reuters.

“Content with #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide was posted on Twitter, which was designed to inflame passions, hatred and was factually incorrect,” the technology ministry source said.

Twitter declined to comment on the notice.

Tens of thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of New Delhi for months demanding the withdrawal of new laws that they say benefit private buyers at the expense of growers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government denies this, saying the reforms open up new opportunities for farmers.

India's IT ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The protests garnered international attention after US singer Rihanna, climate change activist Greta Thunberg and US lawyer and activist Meena Harris, the niece of Vice-President Kamala Harris, made comments on social media drawing attention to the plight of the protesting farmers.

In reaction, India slammed international celebrities for making comments in support of protesting farmers as inaccurate and irresponsible and said vested interest groups were trying to build opinion against the country.

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