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Tweets on Prime Minister’s security breach taken down upon government request

The content that’s been made inaccessible to Indian users was largely critical of India’s ruling party.

Twitter has taken down a few tweets on the alleged security breach that left Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his convoy stranded on a flyover in Punjab. The takedown request was made by the Indian government on the grounds that the tweets violated the Information Technology Act, 2000.

MediaNama has seen public disclosures of the government orders made available by Twitter to the Lumen Database. The website receives and publishes disclosures by private entities, including social media companies, of legal takedown notices they get from governments and other private entities all over the world.

Out of the ten tweets that were taken down, seven of them used the hashtag #KhalistanReferendum, many of them had pictures of Modi’s cavalcade stranded on the flyover in Punjab, and had a general message which echoed anti-BJP sentiments. Few of them had seemingly pro-secessionist views on Punjab.

A Twitter account that posted one of the censored tweets, has been suspended. Although it was not mentioned which government ministry or agency sent the legal request on January 12, it has generally been the work of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) in the past.

The lack of transparency when it comes to takedown requests issued by the Indian government signals that the online space for exercising fundamental rights such as freedom of speech is shrinking.

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Twitter recently censored accounts that tweeted pro-secessionist views on Punjab, Kashmir

Around 24 tweets and accounts that put up pro-secessionist content pertaining to Kashmir and Punjab were withheld in India by Twitter as it complied with legal requests made by Indian authorities under the IT Act on July 22. Some of the accounts that were withheld criticised India’s handling of the Kashmir situation. A few tweets made in the context of the Sulli Deals controversy were also withheld.

This content, which is now inaccessible to Indian users, includes the accounts of —

  • Carin Jodha Fischer, a German national who was deported from India in 2016
  • Kashmir University’s Students’ Union which has been inactive since 2019
  • Tweets of Pakistani nationals who have used hashtags that blame Indian authorities for violence in Jammu and Kashmir, among others.

Tweets deriding CDS General Rawat’s death also taken down

Several tweets deriding the death of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat were blocked in India by Twitter in response to a legal request sent by the Government of India claiming violation of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

A general reading of the tweets and the accounts from which they were posted indicated that it was of Pakistani origin. In many tweets that are unable for viewing in India, Rawat was blamed for violence in Kashmir. It is interesting that these tweets can still be viewed by simply changing the location settings on Twitter.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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