Twitter blocks India accounts on government order over farm protests

By: AFP      Published: 08:22 PM, 1 Feb, 2021
Twitter blocks India accounts on government order over farm protests

Twitter on Monday blocked scores of accounts and tweets in India at the government's request, including those of a prominent news magazine and farmers staging mass protests in the capital.

An IT ministry source told AFP the government had directed the social media giant to act against about 250 Twitter accounts and tweets which posed a "grave threat to public order".

Tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting since November 26 in camps on the outskirts of New Delhi against the deregulation of the agriculture sector.

One rally last week turned into a deadly rampage. Since then, police have detained dozens of farmers and a journalist who writes for Caravan magazine.

Caravan, some farmers activists and unions, some opposition leaders, an actor and an economist were among those whose Twitter accounts were blocked inside India

A Twitter spokeswoman said "it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time" if "a properly scoped" request is made.

A spokesman for the farmers said their accounts "had not done anything wrong" apart from supporting the long-running protests.

Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders slammed the suspensions, which it called a "shocking case of blatant censorship".

"By ordering these blockings, the Home Affairs Ministry is behaving like an Orwellian Ministry of Truth who wants to impose its own narrative about the farmers' protests," the group said.

Since the violence last Tuesday, at least five cases have been registered against journalists and an opposition politician, accusing them of sedition and criminal conspiracy over their reporting and tweets on the rally.

India regularly uses internet shutdowns, most recently at the farmers' protest sites, to limit information sharing during disturbances.

It blocked broadband internet in Kashmir for several months after cancelling the disputed region's semi-autonomy in 2019.

On Reporters Without Borders' 2020 press freedom index, India ranks 142nd out of 180 countries.