Social network Twitter was asked by the government to block multiple accounts and some tweets from advocacy group Freedom House, journalists, politicians, and supporters of farmers’ protest last year, according to a document filed by the platform on June 26.
The requests from the government were sent between January 5, 2021, and December 29, 2021, according to the document filed with Lumen database. Leading internet companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter file information with Lumen database about weblinks or accounts that they have been asked to block by any entity under applicable laws. However, details about whether the request to block a link or account was fulfilled are not available on the database.
According to the document filed by Twitter, the social network was asked by the government to block tweets of international advocacy group Freedom House which conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights including freedom of speech and expression on the internet across the world.
An e-mail query sent to the Ministry of Electronics and IT did not elicit any reply. According to the document, the government had asked Twitter to block a few tweets from Freedom House which talked about the state of internet freedom in 2020 and noted its sharp decline in India. The document showed that the government requested to block tweets belonging to members of India National Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, including MLA Jarnail Singh.
The government had also requested Twitter to block the account of Kisan Ekta Morcha. A random check showed that most of the tweets and Twitter accounts that were requested to be blocked were accessable to users. In a statement released on Monday, the umbrella body of farmers’ unions, Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), raised strong objections to the requests made by the government for blocking tweets of those who stood in its support.
“Samyukta Kisan Morcha strongly opposes and condemns the withholding Twitter accounts allied with the farm movement on the instructions of the Union Government. Twitter has withheld about a dozen Twitter accounts in India, including the Twitter handle @kisanektamorcha allied with the Farm Movement, without any warning,” SKM said.
International group Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the government’s move to block tweets of journalists– Rana Ayyub and CJ Werleman. “Twitter complying with the Indian government’s directive to withhold journalist @RanaAyyub’s tweet and block columnist @cjwerleman’s account in India are part of an unacceptable new trend of censorship on social media. This must stop! Journalists’ voices are essential for a democracy,” CPJ Asia tweeted.