In what could finally end the fortnight-long deadlock between Twitter and the Indian government, the micro-blogging platform has either withheld or suspended at least 90-95 per cent accounts as directed by the IT Ministry in two separate notices, government sources confirmed to IANS on Friday.
Among those whose accounts have been withheld include Sukhram Singh Yadav, a Rajya Sabha member and Samajwadi Party leader, and several politicians from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress.
“@MPSukhram’s account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand,” is the message posted on his account to users who access the page from India. This account, however, can be accessed from outside of the country.
The company, facing penal action if does not comply with the directions given by the IT Ministry in three notices to block nearly 1,435 accounts in the wake of the farmers’ protests, had earlier said that it withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under its ‘Country Withheld Content’ policy within India only.
The company earlier said that it took a range of enforcement actions, including permanent suspension in certain cases, against more than 500 accounts escalated across orders from the Indian government for clear violations of its rules.
According to government sources, Twitter has almost complied with the IT Ministry’s orders.
Some of the accounts that have been withheld belong to Anand Singh, member of Aam Aadmi Party (account deleted); @AdilKhanINC (account deleted); Anjana Om Modi (account withheld in India); Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta) (Ugrahan) (account withheld in India); CP Gurjar, Member of Congress in Rajasthan (account and his tweet withheld in India); @indijaswal, Canada-based user with over 40,000 followers (account withheld in India), and several others.
India had sought action against 1,435 accounts in two separate notices. The details of the accounts in question have not been made public yet.
Twitter had said that it did not believe that the actions it has been directed to take by the IT Ministry are consistent with the Indian law.
“In keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law,” the micro-blogging platform had said in its blog post earlier this week.
Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad replied in Rajya Sabha on Thursday: “There is freedom of speech but Article 19A says that it is subject to reasonable restrictions.”