Farmers’ Protest: Twitter “cannot assume the role of (a) court and justify non-compliance,” the centre has warned.
New Delhi: Twitter may face action if it does not comply with the government’s orders, the centre warned today, stressing that the social media giant “unilaterally unblocked” accounts and tweets – linked to an objectionable hashtag related to the farmers’ protest – despite its order.
On Monday, more than 250 accounts were blocked for tweeting, or retweeting, with the ‘farmer genocide’ hashtag, and making “fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets” in connection with the ongoing farmers’ protest. The use of hashtag is part of “motivated campaign to abuse, inflame and create tension in society on unsubstantiated grounds. Incitement to genocide is not freedom of speech; It is threat to law and order,” the government has insisted.
The crackdown came nearly a week after the clashes between Delhi Police and farmers on Republic Day when the city witnessed unprecedented chaos after a massive tractor rally went rogue. Hours later, however, many of these accounts were unblocked.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Sunday had sought “emergency blocking of 257 URLs and 1 Hashtag under section 69 A of the Information Technology Act,” as per an official statement, which said the social media giant “unfortunately chose not to comply with the same till almost the time fixed for the meeting of a committee” the next day at 3 PM.
“It is thus clear that, the offending tweets/ hashtag remained in public domain and must have been tweeted and re-tweeted several times at the risk and cost of public order and at the risk of incitement to the commission of offences,” the government underlined, stressing on the seriousness of the matter. “The Ministry is in receipt of your reply dated 01.02.2021, wherein Twitter has declined to abide and obey the order issued by the Government of India,” the statement adds.
The social media giant “cannot assume the role of (a) court and justify non-compliance,” the centre further said. “Twitter being an intermediary is obliged to obey the directions as per satisfaction of authorities as to which inflammatory content will arouse passion and impact public order. Twitter cannot sit as an appellate authority over the satisfaction of the authorities about its potential impact on derailing public order,” the statement read.
In a notice sent to Twitter, the government quotes “more than half a dozen Supreme Court judgments including of Constitutional benches as to what is public order and what are the rights of authorities”.
The direction to “block the hashtag “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide” has been found to be instigating people to commit cognizable offences in relation to public order and security of the state,” the centre has said.
Earlier today, the Foreign Ministry had put out an unprecedented response amid outpouring of global support and tweets from foreign celebrities – pop icon Rihanna, climate campaigner Greta Thunberg among others – about the farmers’ agitation. Warning against the “temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments”, the centre said the protests were by “a very small section of farmers” in parts of India.
Farmers protesting near Delhi’s borders at the three epicentres – Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri – against the contentious farm laws have raised objection against the heightened security measures, which include multiple barricades, barbed wire fences, digging of trenches and nails on roads and internet ban.
In its response, Delhi Police last evening justified the measures, citing the violence on Republic Day.