The Centre has asked social media platform Twitter to remove more than a thousand accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation and posting provocative content regarding the ongoing farmers’ protest against the three contentious farm reform laws.
The government has alleged that these 1,178 handles have Pakistani and Khalistani operators, CNBC-TV18 reported citing sources in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). The micro-blogging platform is yet to fully comply with the order.
According to a news report by NDTV, the Centre also objected to Twitter Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jack Dorsey ‘liking’ multiple tweets by foreign-based celebrities in support of the farmers’ protest.
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This comes just a week after MeitY had sent a list of 257 Twitter handles and a list of tweets to be blocked for similar reasons. The platform had blocked and subsequently unblocked these accounts unilaterally, after a few hours.
The central government’s latest request to get more than a thousand accounts purged came amid the “toolkit” controversy. Last week, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg had posted a link to a “toolkit” before deleting it. According to Delhi Police, the 'toolkit' document aimed to promoting enmity between communities.
Thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, are staging a sit-in protest along Delhi's borders for more than 75 days. The farmers are demanding a complete rollback of the three new agriculture reform laws and a guarantee on the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system being retained.
Multiple rounds of talks between the Centre and the farmers’ union leaders have ended in a stalemate. Protesting farmers fear that the new laws will dismantle the MSP system and corporatise farming.
The Supreme Court had earlier ordered a stay on the implementation of the laws, hoping it will end the protest. The protests started receiving global attention last week after tweets by Barbadian singer Rihanna, Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg and American vlogger Amanda Cerny, among others.
After this, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had urged foreign individuals and celebrities to ascertain facts and undertake a proper understanding of the matter before rushing to comment on it. “The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” the ministry said.
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On February 6, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that there was a reason why his ministry had reacted to tweets by Thunberg, Rihanna and other celebrities.
“I think it (the ‘toolkit’) has revealed a lot. We have to wait and see what comes out. You can see there was a reason why the foreign ministry reacted to the statements which some celebrities gave out on matters on which they obviously didn't know very much,” Jaishankar said.