By Aroon Deep and Aditya Chunduru
Twitter has blocked Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Chaudhary Sukhram Singh Yadav’s account in India, in what is among the highest-profile blockings undertaken by the social media platform in the country so far, MediaNama has learnt. “@MPSukhram‘s account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand,” Twitter says to users accessing the page from India. From other countries, Yadav’s tweets appear normally. We have reached out to Twitter for comment.
Yadav, a member of the Samajwadi Party, confirmed that the account (which is not verified with a blue check mark by Twitter) is his official Twitter handle. Yadav’s team confirmed to MediaNama that they are able to post tweets, but not view them. Starting Wednesday, tweets from Yadav’s account had received no likes, retweets or replies, indicating that the account was withheld for Indian users as recently as a day ago.
Yadav, 69, has been in electoral politics for at least 28 years, and was elected to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, in 2016. On being asked what he thought about his account being blocked within the country, Chaudhary told MediaNama,
“To block the account of a people’s representative — this is one of the worst things to do in a democracy. If an MP is not given preference, then what can be said of the common man […] I belong to a family where I am the third MP; my uncle was an MP, my father was an MP. To withhold an account of such an MP is not a sign of democracy.”
He added that he would be writing to the government to protest the blocking.
Twitter recently said it blocked a few hundred handles that the Indian government ordered them to take down. However, it held that it wouldn’t block accounts belonging to journalists, activists and politicians, deeming those accounts newsworthy. In a meeting on Wednesday night, the Secretary of the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Ajay Prakash Sawhney, told the company’s officials that they would have to comply with Indian law, but stopped short of demanding explicitly that the rest of the accounts ordered by MEITY be withdrawn.
It is unclear if Yadav’s account was one of the hundreds that Twitter blocked in response to orders received from MEITY this month. Without naming Twitter, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday accused the platform of not cooperating in investigations into protests at the Red Fort.