A stalemate between Twitter and the Government of India over so-called ‘Pakistani-Khalistani’ handles allegedly spreading misinformation about farmer protests may come to an end soon as the microblogging platform has removed almost half the accounts and tweets it was ordered to block, officials said.

“We can see that the company has started to take action,” a senior government official told ET.

Out of 257 Twitter URLs (uniform resource locators), or accounts, related to the hashtag ‘farmer genocide’ that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had asked Twitter to block on January 31, 126 aren’t working, officials familiar with the matter said.

Out of the second list of 1,178 Twitter accounts flagged by security agencies as those of Khalistan sympathisers or backed by Pakistan, which the government asked Twitter to remove on February 4, 583 are no longer working, they said.

Twitter’s move comes after the government
warned the US-based social media major of penal action, including jail term and fines, if it continued to ignore the government’s directive, and amid several ministers and government departments
joining homegrown microblogging app Koo.

The company
had initially blocked a few tweets and URLs from the initial list of 257 but unblocked them soon after, prompting MeitY to warn Twitter.

The government has also been put off by the microblogging platform CEO Jack Dorsey liking some pro-farmer tweets made by celebrities which raised doubts about the neutrality of the platform.

Sources said IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
may decline the company’s request for a meeting on the matter and MeitY Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney is likely to meet company officials.

Twitter didn’t respond to ET’s queries as of press time Tuesday.

Meanwhile, amid the spat , some ministers, government officials and departments have joined Twitter’s Indian rival Koo.

While Prasad with his over 450,000 followers and minister of state for ports and shipping Mansukh Mandavia have been on the platform since August last year, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan joined Koo on Tuesday. MeitY, Niti Aayog, and the railways ministry also made their debut on the Indian microblogging platform in the last couple of days.

Twitter had on Monday said it had reached out to the minister for a “formal dialogue” and that an acknowledgement to the receipt of the non-compliance notice had also been formally communicated to the government just as it had started a review of the IT ministry’s orders. The company had also said it continues to be engaged with the government “from a position of respect”.

The face-off between Twitter and the government had been intensifying post the Republic Day violence linked to farmer protests in Delhi as conversations linked to the protests continued gaining momentum on the platform.

On January 31, MeitY directed Twitter to block 257 accounts including a hashtag ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide that were said to be spreading misinformation and provocative content around the protests.

Government officials said Twitter blocked the accounts for a few hours before unilaterally restoring them and had not fully complied with the ministry’s order.

On February 3, MeitY issued another notice to Twitter which stated that as an intermediary, Twitter was obliged to follow the government’s instructions under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, failing which it could face penal action.

Officials privy to the developments had told ET that MeitY had issued another directive to Twitter on February 4, asking the company to remove 1,178 accounts flagged by security agencies as those of Khalistan sympathisers or backed by Pakistan in view of the ongoing farmer protests.

Many of these accounts were bots that were used to amplify misinformation and provocative content, officials had said.

On Monday, Twitter confirmed that if it receives a valid legal request about potentially illegal content on the platform it reviews the content under both Twitter rules and local law.

“If the content violates Twitter rules, the content will be removed from the service. 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,” the company had said. “In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they’re aware we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account.”





News Of India

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