Twitter has blocked the accounts of at least 500 people and groups involved in the current protests by farmers in India at the request of the Indian government, according to a new report from Bloomberg News. Some of the accounts have even been permanently deleted.
The Indian government, led by nationalist figure Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recently demanded that Twitter ban hundreds of accounts, and the social media company finally conceded to most of the demands. Twitter reportedly received a notice that it was not properly complying with a lawful order in India, according to Bloomberg, which could have resulted in jail time for Twitter employees.
India has been embroiled in protests this year by independent farmers who are angry with new laws that they say have benefited large corporate farmers. Farmers with small amounts of land are demanding that three laws be repealed along with the abolishment of rules that favour corporate-owned farmers and the government is upset by the activism they’re doing online.
India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) demanded a ban on over 1,000 accounts, according to Bloomberg, and it’s still unclear precisely how many have been purged permanently. Some of the accounts are merely being blocked from inside India but can still be viewed in other countries.
Twitter published a blog early Wednesday laying out the actions it took under pressure from the Indian government:
- We took steps to reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended search terms.
- We took a range of enforcement actions — including permanent suspension in certain cases — against more than 500 accounts escalated across all MeitY orders for clear violations of Twitter’s Rules.
- Separately, today, we have withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under our Country Withheld Content policy within India only. These accounts continue to be available outside of India. Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law. We informed MeitY of our enforcement actions today, February 10, 2021. We will continue to maintain dialogue with the Indian government and respectfully engage with them.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment early Wednesday.