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Rajya Sabha MP Sukhram Singh Yadav takes up Twitter blocking in Parliament

Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Sukhram Singh Yadav took up the issue of his blocking on Twitter in Parliament on Friday. PTI first reported his remarks, which were televised on Rajya Sabha TV. Yadav is perhaps the first Member of Parliament whose Twitter account is withheld, meaning it cannot be seen by Indian users on Twitter. The following is the minute-long exchange between Yadav and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh, per a verbatim transcript prepared by the Parliament:

Deputy Chairman: Mr. Chaudhary Sukhram, you have something to say?

Chaudhary Sukhram Singh Yadav: Honorable Deputy Chairman, in accordance with rule 187 [under which MPs may ask questions that relate to a breach of Parliamentary privilege] I would like to submit that today I have found out that my Twitter account was withdrawn, blocked, in spite of there being no complaint against me by the government. I have done nothing but lay emphasis on farmers’ voices, and that is why this action has been taken. I request you, under the privilege afforded to me, to take cognizance of this, and initiate proceedings against whoever got my Twitter account withdrawn.

Deputy Chairman: There’s a due process to this, so please provide this in writing, after which I will submit the representation to the Chairman [Venkaiah Naidu]. No permission will be granted [to other MPs to speak] after this.

Original exchange in Hindi. Source: Rajya Sabha

MediaNama had first reported Yadav’s suspension on Thursday. In a disclosure, Twitter indicated that Yadav’s account was blocked because his account tweeted support of the farmers’ protests using the hashtag “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide”, a trend on the platform that has particularly disturbed the government, which pointed to it indirectly in Parliament. While Yadav, like most users tweeting using the hashtag, did not post any content substantiating its unfounded claim, Twitter acted on the Indian government’s pressure (via orders under Section 69A of the IT Act) to withhold access to accounts that used the term.

While the government has argued that Twitter was breaking the law by not complying with all its orders, lawyers and constitutional experts like Gautam Bhatia have questioned the legality of the orders in the first place, partly because they don’t give the people whose censorship has been sought an opportunity to be heard.

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