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Most accounts withheld by Twitter on IT Ministry directions now restored

Sources confirmed to The Indian Express that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had directed Twitter to block around 100 Twitter accounts and 150 tweets, related to the farmers' protests, that it claimed were using a controversial hashtag and making "fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets on January 30".

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: February 1, 2021 9:24:12 pm
The Twitter accounts were unblocked late Monday night after a meeting with IT Ministry officials.(Reuters/Representational)

Scores of Twitter accounts, withheld earlier on Monday on directions of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity), were restored late evening. Among the withheld accounts were those linked with the ongoing farmers’ protest against the Centre’s three farm laws, accounts of some political leaders like CPM’s Md Salim, The Caravan magazine, and that of actor Sushant Singh.

Sources confirmed to The Indian Express that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had directed Twitter to block around 100 Twitter accounts and 150 tweets that it claimed were using a controversial hashtag, and making “fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets on January 30”. It was not immediately known if all the accounts and tweets were linked to the farmers’ protest.

After Twitter complied with the order, the company and the IT Ministry held a meeting on Monday evening, sources told The Indian Express. It is learned that Twitter conveyed that the content in question was free speech and newsworthy.

Among the accounts withheld were Kisan Ekta Morcha (@Kisanektamorcha) and BKU Ekta Urgahan (@Bkuektaugrahan), both related to the ongoing farmers’ protest. Apart from these were several individual and organisational accounts, including that of media outlet The Caravan, Prasar Bharti CEO Sashi Shekhar Vempati, activist Hansraj Meena, actor Sushant Singh, Aam Aadmi Party MLA Jarnail Singh, and CPI(M) leader Md Salim.

Sources said the order was processed on the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs and law enforcement agencies “to prevent any escalation of law and order in view of the on-going farmer agitation”.

In a statement issued, Twitter said it acted upon a valid legal request issued by an authority.

“Many countries have laws that may apply to tweets and/or Twitter account content. In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a properly scoped request from an authorised entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content,” it said, adding “Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notice policy for withheld content. Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify the affected account holders (unless we are prohibited from doing so e.g. if we receive a court order under seal).”

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