Social media

Govt blocks twitter accounts, experts call it violation of freedom

twitter-video-relay-afp (File photo) Representational image

According to the Union government, political party gossips are violation of laws. This is evident in the ministry of electronics and IT's latest appeal to Twitter, requesting it to block as many as 115 handles, including @11 Ashoka Road, @Lutyens Spice and @Lutyens Masala. While majority of the accounts are related to Kashmir and Rohingya Muslims, there are also some accounts affiliated with terror outfits.

The accounts on Kashmir and Rohingya Muslims however are not exactly "objectionable content" as the government may like to call. Some of the tweets on these handles are, however, against government's stand on Rohingya Muslims and that could have been the reason the government wants these handles blocked.

Experts are calling it a violation of freedom of expression and say that this reminds of the year 2012 when a large number of websites were blocked by the government.

"The government has not followed procedure while blocking these websites. Under section 69 A, there is a provision that an opportunity to be heard has to be given to the person whose handle is being blocked. They have not done that. And, there is no justification for blocking hashtags", said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society.

The government has asked Twitter to block 12 hashtags, most of them associated with Kashmir and Burhan Wani. Experts say it is quite clear that the government is trying to force an overbearing censorship because some of these handles and tweets are neither objectionable content nor incite violence.

"Content is a grey area. The definition of what cause trouble and will incite riots is so broad that it becomes very subjective. It was meant for specific purposes and that was left on the government of the day to decide. It is the way government interprets it and uses it. And as it has been observed, there are cases where it has been used to curb dissent", said Rodney Ryder, partner, Scriboard, a legal consulting firm.

In a Parliamentary reply, the government said, based on various court orders as well as on the recommendations of an expert committee for blocking URLs/websites, 735 social media URLs and 596 websites have been blocked as of June 2017.

Ryder said instances of blocking websites has become more pronounced also because it is much easier these days to block websites. " You can just block a page/subpage or remove a link rather than removing an entire website."

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Topics : #social media | #Twitter

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