Twitter has withheld Indian users from viewing tweets posted by over 250 accounts at the request of the Indian government.
The changes were first spotted by Mohammed Zubair, co-founder, Alt News, a news website that fact-checks and analyses misinformation across India. The move was further confirmed by ANI (Asian News International). In a tweet, ANI noted that the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) has instructed Twitter to withhold 250 accounts for using the 'Modi Planning Farmer Genocide' hashtag on January 30.
Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) directed Twitter to block around 250 Tweets/Twitter accounts which were using 'Modi Planning Farmer Genocide' hashtag & making fake, intimidatory & provocative Tweets on Jan 30: Sources on Twitter Accounts being withheld pic.twitter.com/LIvZjbevRX— ANI (@ANI) February 1, 2021
According to Twitter, the company withholds an account or a tweet when it receives "a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity". The withholdings are limited to certain jurisdictions "that has issued the valid legal demand or where the content has been found to violate local law(s)." Twitter further recommends the affected users to challenge the decision made by Twitter if they believe that it was made in an error.
At this point, it is not clear what prompted the Indian government to submit the court order. Vinod K Jose, editor-in-chief, The Caravan told The News Minute that Twitter has not provided a specific reason for withholding the magazine's account. The list of withheld accounts also include Mohammad Asif Khan, a minority rights activist, several parody accounts as well as a member of AAP's (Aam Aadmi Party) national social media handle team.
While it is not clear when Indians will be allowed to view these accounts again, tensions between the Indian public and the government are high due to the ongoing farmer protests in the country.