NEW DELHI: The Twi­tter account of the government of Pakistan has been withheld in India, local reports said on Saturday.

While there was no official word from Pakistan regarding the step, Indian news agency ANI reported that @GovtofPakistan had been ‘withheld in India in response to a legal demand’.

According to reports, Twi­tter now displays a notice on the profile saying the acco­unt is withheld in India “following a legal demand”.

India’s pro-government Opindia website said only the Twitter handle of the government of Pakistan has been blocked. Its accounts on other social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram remain intact.

Read: Tactics behind pro-India Twitter drive against Pak Army revealed

The Hindustan Times said this was not the first time for Pakistan’s account to be withheld in India. In June, Twitter in India banned official accounts of Pakistan Embassies in UN, Turkey, Iran and Egypt. In August, India blocked eight YouTube-based news channels, the Times said, including one operating from Pakistan and one Facebook account for posting “fake, anti-India content”.

So far, the Modi government has blocked over 100 YouTube channels, four Facebook pages, five Twitter accounts and three Instagram accounts allegedly for spreading hate against India.

Opindia said it was not yet clear what prompted the move against the official Twitter handle of the government of Pakistan. However, it noted that the move came almost immediately after the Indian government withheld the social media account of a Muslim organisation Popular Front of India (PFI). On Sept 29, the Twitter account of PFI was withheld in the country. The move came following the ban on PFI and its sister organisations imposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Sept 27 via gazette notification.

Along with the Twitter account, PFI’s website, Facebook account and YouTube profile have also been blocked, Opindia said. It alleged that Pakistan officials had come out in support of the banned group.

Pakistan’s Consulate General in Vancouver tagged the Twitter handles of various organisations affiliated with the United Nations and European Union in its response to the tweet by the official handle of the PFI, Opindia said.

This is not the first strike against Pakistan; in June, Twitter banned official accounts of Pakistan embassies in UN, Turkey, Iran and Egypt for Indian audiences. Then, in August, several YouTube-based news channels, Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram accounts operating from Pakistan were banned in India on the charges of spreading hate.

Social media accounts are banned by the Indian government under its Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

These rules allow India to have an upper hand in social media campaigns as it even allows aggressive campaign against Pakistan.

Pakistan, on the other hand, is unable to respond to such Indian actions because there is no law in vogue in the country under which Islamabad runs social media companies to shut down Indian official accounts.

The relevant law in Pakistan titled ‘Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021’ notified by the PTA in October 2021, has been rendered non-functional due to litigation initiated against it by several entities and individuals.

Kalbe Ali in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2022

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