Twitter restores blocked Indian accounts over farmer’s protest

Farmers block a highway during a protest against agricultural reforms at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border in Ghazipur on January 30, 2021
The accounts were all linked to continuing farmers’ protests

Twitter has restored dozens of Indian accounts that were earlier blocked in response to a legal notice by the government, citing objections based on public order.

The accounts were all linked to continuing farmers’ protests against a series of agricultural reform laws, they included farmers’ leaders, activists and a news magazine. The protests are now in their third month, with many farmers camped on the outskirts of the capital, Delhi. Reports say government officials highlighted in their submission to Twitter about 250 accounts and tweets which they said constituted a threat to public security.

Two popular accounts associated with the protest, Kisan Ekta Morcha and Tractor2Twitr, were withheld. Twitter also blocked the accounts of Caravan, a news magazine, activist Hansraj Meena, actor Sushant Singh and other lawmakers. #TwitterCensorship was at the top of trends on the micro-blogging platform on Monday amid outrage over the accounts’ suspension as many criticised the platform for blocking key protesting voices. Twitter reportedly blocked around 100 twitter accounts and around 150 tweets for using a controversial hashtag, and making “fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets on January 30,” Indian Express newspaper reported, quoting government sources.

The timeline of these accounts were blanked out and a message read “Your account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand.” It is unclear what the legal demand mentions. A Twitter statement said, “If we receive a valid and 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.” A leader of farmer collective Kisan Ekta Morcha said that the government had blocked many of the accounts associated with their team.

“It is very surprising. The government is trying to suppress the voice of farmers and supporters of farmers.” On Monday evening, most accounts appeared to have been restored. India had earlier suspended mobile internet services in three areas around Delhi, where farmers are protesting the new agriculture laws.

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