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Twitter has blocked access to over 80 links on its website, specific posts and number of accounts, as the social network was asked by the government to block multiple accounts and some tweets from advocacy group Freedom House, journalists, politicians, and supporters of farmers' protest last year, according to a document filed by the platform on June 26.

The Twitter blocks have been over content relating to the farmers’ protests, Pakistani government accounts and a report by a prominent American non-profit that said internet freedom in India was in decline. The requests from the government were sent between January 5, 2021, and December 29, 2021, according to the document filed with Lumen database.

Notably, leading internet companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter file information with Lumen database about weblinks or accounts that they have been asked to block by any entity under applicable laws. However, details about whether the request to block a link or account was fulfilled are not available on the database.

According to the document filed by Twitter, the social network was asked by the government to block tweets of international advocacy group Freedom House which conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights including freedom of speech and expression on the internet across the world. According to the document, the government had asked Twitter to block a few tweets from Freedom House which talked about the state of internet freedom in 2020 and noted its sharp decline in India.

The document showed that the government requested to block tweets belonging to members of India National Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, including MLA Jarnail Singh. The government had also requested Twitter to block the account of Kisan Ekta Morcha. A random check showed that most of the tweets and Twitter accounts that were requested to be blocked were accessible to users.

As per a statement released on Monday, the umbrella body of farmers' unions, Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), raised strong objections to the requests made by the government for blocking tweets of those who stood in its support. "Samyukta Kisan Morcha strongly opposes and condemns the withholding Twitter accounts allied with the farm movement on the instructions of the Union Government. Twitter has withheld about a dozen Twitter accounts in India, including the Twitter handle @kisanektamorcha allied with the Farm Movement, without any warning," SKM said.

Some of these blocks – technically a geo-block that Twitter classifies as Country Withheld, which refers to restricting access in a particular geography instead of a complete takedown – were rolled out over the weekend. The action was in response to 24 legal directions sent by the government over 2021, according to Twitter’s disclosure to the Lumen database, an internet transparency archive.

The Lumen disclosure said the government cited the Information Technology Act, and a person associated with Twitter, who asked not to be named, added that the move was consistent with the company’s Country Withheld policy since it “may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in response to a valid legal demand."

(With inputs from agencies)

 

 

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