Microblogging site Twitter on Monday, 1st February, 2021 blocked several accounts in India and on its platform including those linked with the ongoing farmers' protest against the Centre three farm laws. Twitter said its action was in response to a legal demand.
Upon searching for accounts including Kisan Ekta Morcha (@Kisanektamorcha), BKU Ekta Urgahan (@Bkuektaugrahan), The Caravan (@thecaravanindia) a message saying account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand was displayed.
Citing sources, PTI reported that Twitter has blocked 250 handles and posts for allegedly containing false and provocative content related to the ongoing farmers protest against the three farm laws.
Apart from these, several individuals and organisational accounts including that of media organisations such as The Caravan, Prasar Bharti CEO Sashi Shekhar Vempati, activist Hansraj Meena, actor Sushant Singh, Aam Aadmi Party MLA Jarnail Singh, and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammed Salim were also withheld, a report in The Indian Express said.
According to these sources, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) directed Twitter to block around 250 tweets/Twitter accounts that were allegedly making fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets on 30 January with hashtags accusing the Modi government of planning farmers genocide without any further substantiation.
The move came at the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and law enforcement agencies to prevent any escalation of law and order in view of the ongoing farmers protest, the sources said, adding that these tweets/accounts have now been blocked.
Among the accounts blocked were Kisan Ekta Morcha and BKU Ekta Urgahan, both actively involved in the ongoing farmers protest.
When contacted by PTI, a Twitter spokesperson said if it receives a properly scoped request from an authorised entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.
Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify the affected account holders (unless we are prohibited from doing so, eg, if we receive a court order under seal), the spokesperson added.
In a tweet, The Caravan executive editor Vinod K Jose confirmed that the magazine account has been withheld.
The Delhi Police is currently probing the Republic Day violence, wherein it has lodged multiple FIRs and booked, among others, several farmer leaders leading the protests at the National Capital borders since November-end.
This development comes in the wake of violence in Delhi on 26 January during a tractor parade organised by farmers protesting against the three new central agriculture laws. Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notice policy for withheld content.