It appears that the Indian Government has directed ISPs to block parody accounts of the Prime Minister on Twitter. According to a report by The Times Of India, the government, with assistance from ISPs at the local level, has blocked six parody accounts including @PM0India (O replaced with a zero), @Indian_pm and @PMOIndiaa. At the time of writing this posts the handles were inaccessible on Airtel Broadband in Delhi with ‘http’. However, these were accessible with the ‘https’ prefix. We were also able to access these handles on Vodafone 3G.
The Times of India report indicates that the Prime Minister’s office had written to Twitter in June 2012, to take action against these accounts, however, Twitter did not pay heed to these requests. The Prime Minister’s office also told the publication that it did not have a problem with parody but the said accounts were misrepresenting the PM’s office, and that one of these accounts tweeted communally- sensitive statements which could trigger a social strife.
This follows the recent blocking of 245 web pages with inflammatory and hateful content by the government, following the exodus of a large number of people belonging to the North Eastern ethnic community from cities like Bangalore and Pune, among others.
Update: Opposition’s View on Parody Accounts & Impersonation
Speaking against the open-ended terms laid out in the IT Rules, during a Parliamentary debate, BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Arun Jaitley, had commented on parody accounts on Twitter and had said that we were losing our sense of humor.
Here’s the excerpt from his speech:
‘ Sir, my grievance is that both in Parliament, in our media and public discourse, we are losing a sense of humour. There are cases of impersonation that I see, particularly, on the Twitter. I have had somebody impersonating a site as my site. I made a grievance and I found a lot of humours and funny things, including ridiculous to me coming from that particular impersonator. You have somebody imitating people in high places. As long as it is a part of permissible humour, it is all right, but if it is a case where somebody is committing an offence through impersonation, I think, there is a need for law to step in. But if it is a case where somebody has a satirical site or a satirical space on the Twitter, this is not intended to really stop that.’
Twitter Guidelines on Parody Accounts:
According to Twitter’s Guidelines for Parody, Commentary and Fan Accounts, ‘an account’s profile information should make it clear that the creator of the account is not actually the same person or entity as the subject of the parody/commentary. ‘ Twitter clarifies that if ‘an account is engaged in parody and follows all of the above recommendations, it will generally be free to continue in its parody so long as it doesn’t mislead or deceive others.’ It does mention that if an account is found to be deceptive or misleading, it may request that the user make further changes to bring the account more in line with best practices that it suggests, and might suspend ‘accounts with a clear intent to deceive’.
The ‘@PM0India’ account bio does mention that it’s the UnOfficial Twitter account of the Prime Minister’s office and a parody account, however the similarity between PM0 and PMO, might border on misrepresentation, and impersonation. So we’re not sure if Twitter would regard this as a violation of its policy.
Transparency Report & Censorship
Twitter had also issued a ‘transparency report’ in July informing about user information requests, removal requests, and copyright takedown notices. It had received less than 10 requests from India against less than 10 users/accounts with a 0% compliance rate for the period January to July 2012.
Twitter had also made changes to its policies and technology, to allow the company to showcase different content in different countries, keeping it in the clear with the laws of each country. however, it had promised that it would indicate wherever information was blocked/modified.