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ACCOUNTING FOR ABUSE

Why Twitter has suspended the accounts of several prominent people and bodies in India

Upon the instructions of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), social networking site Twitter has suspended the accounts of high-profile celebrities and organisations, such as Kisan Ekta Morcha, actor Sushant Singh, Caravan magazine, Tractor2twitr and several other politicians, writers, farmer leaders and activists who have been accused of spreading misinformation during the farmers’ protests.

Late last month, the IT ministry and law enforcement agencies had ordered the microblogging site to block such tweets and accounts under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

According to Twitter, it blocked these accounts in the interim in response to a valid legal request from the MeitY, pending discussions with them.

A spokesperson of the company said 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 in a particular country from time to time,” the company said in a statement.

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),” the statement said.

Twitter revealed that it suspended a few days ago more than 300 accounts engaged in spam and platform manipulation as the farmers’ tractor rally went violent in the national capital on the 72nd Republic Day.

The farmers swarmed the Red Fort and waved farmer union flags from its ramparts. They even hoisted farmer union flags and a pennant with a Sikh religious symbol from a flagpole.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company has taken strong enforcement action to protect the conversation on the service from attempts to incite violence, abuse and threats that could trigger the risk of offline harm by blocking certain terms that violate the platform’s rules for trends.

“Using a combination of technology and human review, Twitter worked at scale and took action on hundreds of Tweets that have been in violation of the Twitter Rules and suspended more than 300 accounts engaged in spam and platform manipulation,” the spokesperson informed.

The Delhi Police had warned that 308 Twitter handles have been generated to create confusion over the tractor rally proposed by protesting farmers on Republic Day.

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