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Farmer protest: Govt orders Twitter to block 1,178 more accounts

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: The Centre has once again directed microblogging platform, Twitter, to block over a thousand more accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation and provocative contents in connection with ongoing farmers’ protest after previous list of 257 handles and tweets to be blocked for similar reasons. The list of accounts which was earlier sent on January 31 were unilaterally unblocked by the Twitter shortly after blocking them.

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The statement by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology stated that the 1,178 listed handles have Pakistani and ‘Khalistani’ users, as per official sources. The social media site is yet to completely comply with the order, they further said.

‘On February 4, the ministry shared the fresh list flagged by security agencies as accounts of ‘Khalistan’ supporters or backed by Pakistan and operating from foreign territories, threatening public order in the country amid the farmers’ protest.

“Many of these accounts were also automated bots that were used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative contents on farmers’ protests,” a source said.

Meanwhile, a few days ago, Twitter global CEO Jack Dorsey had reportedly “liked” several tweets made by foreign celebrities in support of farmer protests, which was seen as the defiance of government’s order to block the accounts.

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“The government also objects to Twitter CEO liking some tweets by celebrities as it raises questions on his neutrality,” the source said.

According to a Twitter spokesperson the platform was guided by principles of transparency and empowering the public conversation. “If we receive a valid legal request about potentially illegal content on Twitter, we review it under both the Twitter rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter”s rules, the content will be removed from the service,” he said.

“If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter rules, we may withhold access to the content in the location only. In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they”re aware we”ve received a legal order pertaining to the account,” the spokesperson added.

Centre’s pushback comes amid Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg’s “toolkit” controversy surrounding the farmer protest. The teen activist had last week given out a “toolkit” which was reuploaded shortly after being deleted. This document, as per the police, aimed to spread disaffection and ill-will against the government of India and sought to create disharmony among various social, religious, and cultural groups.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday said there was a reason why his ministry reacted to the remarks of celebrities like Ms Thunberg.

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“I think it (“toolkit”) has revealed a lot. We have to wait and see what comes out. You can see there was a reason why the foreign ministry reacted to the statements which some celebrities gave out on matters on which they obviously didn’t know very much,” Jaishankar said.

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