Twitter’s action was carried out after India’s child rights body wrote a letter to the company and Delhi Police about a particular tweet posted by the Congress leader.
Twitter has temporarily locked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s account for violating its rules, MediaNama has confirmed. Commenting on the issue, the micro-blogging platform said that, “if a Tweet was found to be in violation of the Twitter Rules, and has yet to be deleted by the account holder, we hide it behind a notice and the account remains locked until the Tweet is removed or the appeal is successfully processed.”
A source close to the development said that the action was taken on August 6, two days after Gandhi had tweeted a photograph of himself with the parents of the 9-year-old victim of alleged gang rape and murder. The tweet in question is no longer available. Congress party members have been protesting in front of the Delhi office of Twitter India with several senior members claiming that Twitter was biased by placing restrictions on Gandhi’s account and was acting out of fear of the government.
Why it matters? According to IT Rules 2021, social media intermediaries like Twitter have to voluntarily remove any content violating any Indian law, especially those relating to child abuse. But this is just one of many instances wherein Twitter has been mired in controversy after locking accounts or taking down tweets. In May 2021, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had written to Twitter to remove the manipulated media tag it had put on several BJP leaders’ tweets. Clearly, political censorship and content regulation are tricky areas for the social media platform.
Justification for locking Gandhi’s account
According to Twitter, it locks accounts for two reasons: suspicious activity which could suggest that the account has been compromised and/or displays automated behavior, and activity violating its rules. In the case of the latter, Twitter may ask the user to complete certain actions before it starts the countdown on their ‘limited state’ like verify their email address, add a phone number to their account, or delete Tweets that are in violation of its rules.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked Delhi Police and the micro-blogging platform to take action over Gandhi’s photo. In a letter to Twitter’s Resident Grievance Redressal Officer, the child rights body said that the tweet violates the Juvenile Justice Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. NCPCR’s chairperson Pravin Kangoo had subsequently tweeted that the child rights body had sent a notice to Twitter to start ‘proceedings’ against Rahul Gandhi and take down his tweet.
The NCPCR’s legal request provided context and was taken into account before making the decision to lock Gandhi’s account, MediaNama has learned. According to Twitter, it has taken the same action against other accounts that posted the same image as Gandhi did.
Twitter’s run-ins with the NCPCR
- In September 2020, Twitter had been asked to provide relevant information to the NCPCR, after the latter filed a complaint against three Twitter users for allegedly ‘harassing and torturing’ a minor girl on social media.
- On June 14, the Commission had written to social media giants Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Telegram over illegal adoption posts on their platforms for children who have been orphaned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- On June 30, the Commission had registered a case with the Delhi Police’s Cyber Cell against Twitter Inc for allegedly having child pornographic and sexual abuse content on their platform.
- On July 6, the Commission had asked Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh to file a case against Twitter on charges of “encouraging people to involve children into terrorism”. According to the Hindustan Times, it cited a video on the platform that showed a child firing in the air.
Other cases of political content regulation in India
February 1: Twitter blocks roughly 250 accounts in response to a notice by the government. These included accounts belonging to The Caravan, a news magazine, as well as activists and organisations supporting the months-long farmers’ protests on the outskirts of Delhi. Six hours later, Twitter restores the accounts.
February 11: Twitter blocks Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Chaudhary Sukhram Singh Yadav’s account in India in response to a legal request.
April 24: Twitter complies with government requests to censor 52 tweets that mostly criticised India’s handling of the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included tweets by Revanth Reddy, a sitting Member of Parliament, and Moloy Ghatak, a West Bengal state minister.
May 21: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology writes to Twitter to remove the manipulated media tag it had put on several BJP leaders’ tweets. It also asks for clarification on how its policy (regarding manipulated media) was applicable in this case.
- Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019: Protecting children’s data online
- Delhi Police Registers POCSO Case Against Twitter, Platform Says ‘Zero Tolerance Policy’ On Child Sexual Exploitation
- National Commission For Child Protection Demands Netflix Take Down Bombay Begums
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