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Letter game between Modi Govt, Twitter intensifies

The government took note of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey "liking" a Tweet asking for an emoji for the hashtag #FarmersProtests

Tuesday February 9, 2021 0:54 AM, ummid.com with inputs from IANS

Twitter vs Govt

New Delhi: The letter game between the government and Twitter has intensified, with no respite seen as the micro-blogging platform is yet to take action on, what the Narendra Modi govt claimed, "several mischievous, dangerous and fake accounts" amid the ongoing farmers' protest.

The situation is grim, and tough penal action is imminent if Twitter does not put its Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) systems in place and remove controversial hashtags from its platform, and block accounts that Modi government believe are linked to "Khalistan sympathisers" and those "backed by Pakistan".

The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has sent three notices, starting with asking the company to block 257 accounts using the #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag amid the farmers' protest, under Section 69A of the IT Act.

Twitter had suspended some high-profile accounts earlier this month, only to unblock them in few hours saying that the "content is free speech and newsworthy".

"Protecting public conversation and transparency is fundamental to the work we do at Twitter, and the content has been unblocked," the company said in a statement.

Also Read | Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha Twitter accounts restored

The IT ministry then took cognizance of a clear attempt to "polarise" India when international celebrities extended their support to the protesters agitating against the three new farm laws.

The government took note of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey "liking" a Tweet asking for an emoji for the hashtag #FarmersProtests.

Dorsey liked the Tweet which said:

"Now is a good time as ever for @Twitter and @Jack to add a Twitter emoji to the massive #FarmersProtests in India - as they did for historic international protests like #BlackLivesMatter and #EndSars".

The Twitter CEO liked the tweet by Washington Post journalist Karen Attiah.

The government, in a strong reaction, described the celebrities' tweets as part of "vested interest groups" and their support as "sensationalist social media hashtags and comments" which are "neither accurate, nor responsible".

The government has now sent a fresh notice to Twitter in less than 10 days, directing it to block 1,178 more accounts -- this time related to "Khalistan sympathisers".

Also Read | Twitter keeps 'farmer genocide' contents live, govt threatens penal action

According to Pavan Duggal, one of the country's top cyber law experts, intermediaries like Twitter have to comply with the applicable laws of India "if their services are being made available on computer systems and networks in India and further if the contravention is being carried out on computer systems and networks physically located in India".

In case Twitter fails to comply with the government directions, the latter has the powers to resort to penal consequences.

"In that direction, appropriate FIRs can be registered against intermediaries and service providers and their top management can also be made liable for the said contravention under Section 85 of the Information Technology Act, 2000," Duggal informed.

The government can also initiate action for suspension or blocking of intermediary apps or websites if they fail to comply with the directions.

"As per Section 69A (3), there is provision of seven years' imprisonment and fine," said Virag Gupta, the lawyer of former RSS ideologue K.N. Govindacharya, who is arguing the Designated Officers' matter before the Delhi High Court.


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