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Twitter removes, curbs access to over 50 posts flagged by government

Some of the tweets showed pictures and videos of the recent Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh that left as many as 22 police personnel dead.

Global micro-blogging website Twitter has taken down or restricted access to over 50 tweets flagged by the Central government, through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in the past one month, according to disclosures made by the platform to Lumen Database.

While some of the takedown notices sent to Twitter sought removal or blocking of access in India to tweets that were critical of the Centre’s handling of the second wave of Covid-19, other tweets showed pictures and videos of the recent Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh that left as many as 22 police personnel dead.

The tweets were sent by a journalist with a leading daily, a filmmaker, a Member of Parliam­ent, a Member of Legislative Assembly, and an actor. All these tweets have been withheld in India, which means that Twitter users in the country would not be able to view their content.

Concerns on curbing free speech

Earlier this year, in January and February, Twitter had been in the crosshairs of the IT Ministry after the social media giant had initially refused to take down certain tweets about farmer protests flagged by the ministry. Twitter had then sought to explain its stand on why it did not remove certain tweets despite being asked by the ministry.

The defiance of government orders, however, did not sit well with the IT Ministry, which threatened to jail Twitter India employees if the platform failed to act. Twitter India backed down, and later said it had complied with 95 per cent of requests that the government had made.

The first list of 257 such accounts was sent by the ministry on January 31, which was followed by another list of nearly 1,200 accounts. Both lists sent by the IT Ministry claimed that these Twitter handles had been “spreading misinformation” about the farmers’ protest, which had the potential to “lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country”.

Twitter had responded by blocking some of the accounts, but had later unblocked them — a decision which irked the IT ministry. The platform has several times said that it reviews each such takedown reports from the government “as expeditiously as possible”, and takes appropriate action in line with the fundamental values of the company and its “commitment to protecting the public conversation”.

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