India's Rahul Gandhi says blocked by Twitter for political reasons

Published August 13, 2021
Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi. — AFP/File
Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi. — AFP/File

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of India's main opposition party, slammed Twitter on Friday for blocking a tweet over the alleged rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl, saying the platform was playing partisan politics.

The criticism of the US microblogging giant by the Congress party comes as Twitter is trying to address concerns raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government over compliance issues.

Gandhi's account, which has 19.5 million followers, was locked after he posted a photograph of himself with the parents of a girl who was allegedly raped and killed in New Delhi on August 1, saying the family deserved justice.

Indian law bars disclosing the identity of victims of sexual assault and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights issued a notice to Twitter asking for its removal.

But Gandhi said in a video released to reporters that by shutting him down, Twitter was interfering in politics and playing into the hands of the Modi government, which is bitterly opposed to Gandhi.

“This is an attack on the democratic structure of the country. It's obvious now that Twitter is actually not a neutral, objective platform. It's something that listens to what the government of the day says.”

While Gandhi's account is still up and all his tweets visible until Aug 6, the platform hid his post about the girl and has blocked him from tweeting further, pending his deletion of the tweet.

The accounts of several other Congress leaders were also locked for tweeting the picture.

A Twitter spokesperson said that the platform's rules were “enforced judiciously and impartially”.

“We have taken proactive action on several hundred Tweets that posted an image that violated our Rules, and may continue to do so in line with our range of enforcement options,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“Our aim is always to protect individuals' privacy and safety.”

Congress spokesman Vineet Punia declined to comment on whether Gandhi planned to delete the tweet about the girl.

Police have taken four people into custody after the attack, which triggered widespread anger and protests in the capital as the latest case of violence against women in the country.

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