[Updated] Twitter Withholds Caravan India, Farmer Protest Accounts Citing "Legal Demand"

Clay Curtis
February 3, 2021

The blocks, which only applied for viewers based in India, came after the Indian government hit Twitter with a legal demand.

Twitter has restored several accounts of high-profile celebrities and organisations, including actor Sushant Singh, Caravan magazine, Kisan Ekta Morcha, Tractor2twitr and several other politicians, farmer leaders, writers and activists, that were blocked for several hours at the behest of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) for spreading misinformation during the farmers' protests.

A list of accounts is not available, and the users on Twitter are still discovering that a number of accounts that were tweeting information related to farmers" protest are now showing a "blocked in India' message.

A Twitter spokesperson, in an emailed response said: Many countries have laws that may apply to Tweets and/or Twitter account content. Complying with the ministry's order, Twitter has blocked the listed tweets and accounts. The account of Prasar Bharati's Chief Executive Officer Shashi S Vempati has also been suspended.

The development comes in the wake of violence in Delhi on Republic Day on January 26 during a tractor parade of farmers protesting the new agriculture laws which resulted in the death of one person and injuries to over a hundred people, including police personnel.

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"The flagged accounts were peddling fake news, causing disharmony, disrupting public peace and posting old content without clarifications from police", said a police officer. The accounts in question, which include The Caravan and Kisan Ekta Morcha have been reporting rigorously on the farmers' protests. "Incitement to genocide is a grave threat to public order and therefore the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) ordered for blocking of these Twitter accounts and tweets", the memo said. While the details as to why the accounts have been suspended are still unknown, netizens on Twitter began reacting strongly to the same and called out the tech-giant.

The legal demand from the Indian government put Twitter, which has employees based in the country, in a hard position.

As anti-government protest movements have swelled in India over the last 14 months, the Indian government has increasingly sent legal demands to Twitter demanding content takedowns, according to Twitter's most recent transparency report. "#RestoreHansrajMeena", tweeted the account of Gaon Dastak, a rural news platform.

"Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notice policy for withheld content".

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