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Twitter censors accounts of Punjabi rappers in India upon government request

Twitter has censored the accounts of two Punjabi rappers, Birmingham-based Jazzy B and Sydney-based L-FRESH the Lion in response to a government request disclosed to the Lumen Database on June 7. The disclosure, first reported by TechCrunch, is the first government request disclosed by the company since April 27.

Both rappers’ accounts have been just geo-restricted in India, and the artists were able to post their reactions on the social media platform from their respective location. “I will always stand for the rights of my people,” Jazzy B, whose legal name is Jaswinder Singh Bains, tweeted. His tweet accompanied an image saying that his profile was withheld because of his support for farmer’s protests and for the call for justice in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Sukhdeep Singh Bhogal, who goes by L-FRESH the LION, said, “Happy to stand for what I believe in. Always will.” Bhogal added, “The censorship of Sikhs & activists in India isn’t new. I’m privileged to be in Australia & not on the ground there where the cost many pay is much higher. Arrests, torture, disappearances, false encounters.”

Twitter said in a statement that:

When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter’s 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 India only. In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they’re aware that we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account. We notify the user(s) by sending a message to the email address associated with the account(s), if available. Read more about our Legal request FAQs.  Twitter is committed to the principles of openness, transparency, details of the  requests to withhold content have been published on Lumen.

Twitter also withheld the account of the California Sikh Youth Alliance, which also frequently posts on these subjects. We have reached out to CSYA for comment. Before this, the government’s highest-profile censorship of Twitter was the withholding of tweets and accounts that were critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic, which MediaNama first reported in April.

The government is currently engaged in a tussle with Twitter, and has reportedly asked the social media platform to comply with legal requirements under the newly notified Intermediary Guidelines to appoint a grievance redressal officer; Twitter has reportedly asked for more time to comply.

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