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Govt. warns Twitter to comply or face action over ‘Farmer Genocide’ Hashtag

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: The micro blogging site on Wednesday was sent notice for “unilaterally unblocking” accounts and tweets, linked to an objectionable hashtag related to the farmers’ protest, despite the ruling government order. The Centre’ also warned the social media giant to face action if not comply with the it’s orders.

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The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Wednesday warned Twitter that there will be consequences of not complying with “directions issued under section 69A of Information Technology Act”.

The government had on Monday directed the microblogging platform to withhold around 250 such accounts  for tweeting, or retweeting, with the ‘farmer genocide’ hashtag, and making “fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets” in connection with the ongoing farmers’ protest. The use of hashtag is part of “motivated campaign to abuse, inflame and create tension in society on unsubstantiated grounds. Incitement to genocide is not freedom of speech; It is threat to law and order,” the Centre insisted.

The hashtag came nearly a week after the violence broke out between Delhi Police and farmers on Republic Day. Hours later, however, many of these accounts were unblocked.

Meanwhile, MEIT on Sunday had sought “emergency blocking of 257 URLs and 1 Hashtag under section 69 A of the Information Technology Act,” as per an official statement, which said Twitter, “unfortunately chose not to comply with the same till almost the time fixed for the meeting of the Committee” the next day at 3 PM.

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“It is thus clear that, the offending tweets/ hashtag remained in public domain and must have been tweeted and re-tweeted several times at the risk and cost of public order and at the risk of incitement to the commission of offences,” the government statement underlined, stressing on the urgency of the matter. “The Ministry is in receipt of your reply dated 01.02.2021, wherein Twitter has declined to abide and obey the order issued by the Government of India,” the statement added. Centre further said that, the micro-blogging site, “cannot assume the role of (a) court and justify non-compliance.”

“Twitter being an intermediary is obliged to obey the directions as per satisfaction of authorities as to which inflammatory content will arouse passion and impact public order. Twitter cannot sit as an appellate authority over the satisfaction of the authorities about its potential impact on derailing public order,” the statement read.

Government notice sent to Twitter further quoted, “more than half a dozen Supreme Court judgments including of Constitutional benches as to what is public order and what are the rights of authorities”.

The direction to “block the hashtag “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide” has been found to be instigating people to commit cognizable offences in relation to public order and security of the state,” the government said.

Earlier today, responding to global celebrities like pop icon Rihanna, climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, among others tweet about the ongoing farmers’ agitation in the country, the Foreign Ministry put an unprecedented response warning against the “temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments”, saying that the protests were by “a very small section of farmers” in parts of India.

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Meanwhile, tens of thousand farmers majorly from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh have been protesting near Delhi’s borders at the three epicentres, Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri, against Centre’s contentious farm laws since November 26, demanding repeal of this controversial legislature. Where farmers’ protest is going strong, the government is trying every bit to weaken this agitation by snapping internet, cutting down water and electricity supply, putting multiple barricades, barbed wire fences, digging of trenches and nails on roads, near protesting sites.

Justifying these “strict measures” the Delhi Police last evening cited the violence on Republic Day.

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