Published: Wed, February 03, 2021

Twitter blocks, then restores several accounts linked to farmer protest

Twitter blocks, then restores several accounts linked to farmer protest

Twitter India on Monday restored numerous accounts it had earlier withheld on the platform in response to a legal request from Indian authorities related to the ongoing farmer agitation.

A Twitter trend, "ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide" was said to be the cause of the blocking of the accounts.

An "account withheld" message was shown to anyone trying to access these accounts, which Twitter said were "withheld in India in response to a legal demand".

"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)", Twitter added.

Interestingly, the Twitter account of Shashi Shekhar, the CEO of India's public broadcaster, Prasar Bharati, was also withheld.

The Delhi Police earlier had registered an FIR against The Caravan magazine for allegedly spreading false information about the farmer who died during the protest on 26th January.


After the blockages drew widespread condemnation online, Twitter said it had unblocked all the accounts late on Monday.

The government was quoted stating that these provocative tweets were a grave threat to the public order and had extended the request to Twitter to withhold the accounts in question.

"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 micro-blogging platform said in a statement. The government's demand was aimed at preventing the spread of fake news.

This is in line with Twitter's official stated position on this on their blog: "Such withholdings will be limited to the specific jurisdiction that has issued the valid legal demand or where the content has been found to violate local law (s)". Among the accounts withheld are Kisan Ekta Morcha (@Kisanektamorcha) and BKU Ekta Urgahan (@Bkuektaugrahan), both having followers in thousands.

"Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notice policy for withheld content".

India regularly uses internet shutdowns, most recently at the farmers' protest sites, to limit information sharing during disturbances. Therefore, these Tweets and accounts have now been unwithheld. (Japan, Russia, South Korea and Turkey are the top four.) India also led the world in government-targeted Internet shutdowns in 2020, with blockages (often targeted at sites of protest or insurgency) lasting almost 9,000 hours and costing the economy an estimated $2.7 billion, according to research by Top10VPN.

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