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Twitter restricted dozens of high-profile Twitter accounts in India after legal demand

Farmers from all over India are protesting against a set of new agricultural laws.

Dozens of high-profile Twitter accounts that belonged to prominent journalists and newspeople were blocked in India on Monday. The official explanation from Twitter was that they did so to comply with the “legal demand.”

The demand to block the accounts came from the Indian government on the basis that Twitter users were posting and spreading content calling for violence. For the moment, the blocked accounts can not be accessed in India, just from abroad.

This unexpected move by Twitter came amid the protests by Indian farmers who got violent the week before. As a result of the violence that occurred during the farmers’ protest, one demonstrator got killed, and hundreds more were injured. There were also police officers injured during the violent riots. 

Farmers from all over India are protesting against a set of new agricultural laws. They demand the withdrawal of new laws that they say favor private buyers on account of farmers and growers such as them. On the other side of the specter is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who introduced the new agricultural laws and strongly supported their implementation. According to Prime Minister Modi, the new laws will provide equal opportunities to all farmers as they will be able to sell their products to private buyers easily. 

Bhuvan Bagga, an AFP journalist, reported that India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) asked Twitter to block approximately 250 tweets. Allegedly, the tweets in question used a hashtag that even incited genocide. MEITY even called it “a grave danger to public order.” The hashtag in question is #modiplanningfarmersgenocide. 

Twitter responded that they complied with government orders. 

However, Twitter’s restrictions came when Indian journalists were being prosecuted and facing charges over their coverage of the protest

Some of them are even charged for their social media posts related to the farmer’s demonstrations. Vinod Jose, executive editor of Caravan, and Rajdeep Sardesai, a news anchor, are some of the high profile media workers facing charges of sedition. 

Twitter has around 18.9 million users in India and has been continuously criticized about its operations in one of its biggest markets. Unlike in the US, content moderation in India is at a very low level. Very often, the trending topics seem useless, paid for, outdated, or even manipulated. The current dealings only pile up on top of those issues.

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