The central government has served an order asking social media giants Twitter to remove over 1,000 hands which are Pakistan backed and have Khalistani supporters, for allegedly sharing provocative content and misinformation over the ongoing farmers’ protest in India.
According to reports, the Centre ordered the removal of 1,178 accounts. These accounts are automated bots that are used to share and intensify misinformation and provocative content on the ongoing farmers’ agitation.
The new order comes after the government had earlier asked Twitter to block 257 accounts. Reportedly, the microblogging platform is yet to adhere to the Indian government’s order which was given under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. According to Section 69A of IT Act, the government can block access to content that would pose a threat to public order.
The government has also questioned the neutrality of Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey after he reportedly ‘liked’ several tweets of overseas celebrities tweeted in support of the farmers’ protest. As per reports, the Centre objected to Jack’s ‘liking’ of such tweets.
The previous order of blocking 257 accounts was also issued under Section 69A. Earlier, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had directed Twitter to block 250 accounts for spreading provocative tweets with hashtags alleging the BJP government of planning farmers ‘genocide’ with proof.
Twitter blocked the accounts including Kisan Ekta Morcha, former Lok Sabha MP and CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim, activist Hansraj Meena, media organisation Caravan India and actor Sushant Singh. Ironically, Twitter restricted Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar's account, who encouraged Twitter to take action against users using the controversial hashtag.
Following public backlash for blocking accounts, Twitter quickly restored the blocked accounts. This move didn’t go down well with the Union IT Ministry. Reportedly, the Ministry warned Twitter that if they do not comply with the orders, then the government will take ‘penal action’ against the social media platform and Twitter officials could end up in jail for seven years.
Meanwhile, according to reports, Twitter’s Public Policy Director for India and South Asia Mahima Kaul stepped down from her post in January. As per the company, she will leave office in March end and wants to focus on her personal life.
"At the start of this year, Mahima Kaul decided to step down from her role as Twitter Public Policy Director for India and South Asia to take a well-deserved break,” Twitter Public Policy VP Monique Meche said in a statement. “It's a loss for all of us at Twitter, but after more than five years in the role, we respect her desire to focus on the most important people and relationships in her personal life. Mahima will continue in her role till the end of March and will support the transition."
The company is seeking candidates for the role of Public Policy Director following Kaul’s decision to resign. However, the company made it clear the Kaul’s resignation has nothing to do with the ongoing issues between the Centre and Twitter. It must be pointed out that Kaul led the talks with government officials over the blocking and unblocking of Twitter handles which were ordered by the Centre.