Twitter on Monday blocked access to several prominent Indian accounts. These include the account of the CEO of Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan, the country’s national state-owned broadcaster. The company also blocked access to The Caravan magazine’s Twitter account in India, along with multiple anti-establishment commentators and organisations representing protesting farmers. It is not clear why access to these accounts has been blocked. A court order or FIR may have caused the blocking in India, as has been the case in the past, when journalist Aakar Patel’s account was withheld for some time. When reached for comment, Twitter provided no reasons, and sent a lightly edited version of the company’s help documentation on country-specific account blocking.
Indian law obligates Twitter to withhold access to this content in India; however, the content remains available elsewhere. Following Indian legal process, we are in current communication with the Indian authorities who issued this legal demand in which your account was included. We will notify you if there are any changes to the status of your account. — Excerpt from Twitter’s message to users whose account was withheld on Monday (via Sanjukta Basu)
Twitter’s message to users whose accounts were withheld in India may imply that, apart from a court order, requests from law enforcement or the government may be behind the blocking.
Who was blocked
The blockings also include the Kisan Ekta Morcha, @Tractor2twitr, actor Sushant Singh, political commentator and author Sanjukta Basu, and activist Hansraj Meena, among multiple others. The accounts affected so far have a following in the tens of thousands, or in the hundreds of thousands. The blocked accounts are largely anti-government, or in support of the 2020–21 farmer protests. Lumen, an online database of the kind of complaints that lead to handles’ blocking in individual countries, has not put up a copy of any order that might reveal the full extent of the censorship.
Basu, one of the people whose accounts were blocked, said that Twitter cited a tweet of hers where she asked, “think how much BJP [is] paying Twitter” for what she implied was improper ordering of trends in the Trending window. She told MediaNama, “If they think this is violative of the laws of the land, then we simply don’t have the right to criticise in this country anymore.” BuzzFeed News’s Pranav Dixit reported on Twitter that The Caravan had not been provided an explanation for the blocking of their account as of Monday afternoon.
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