The United States on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to supporting democratic values, while responding to Twitter blocking certain accounts in India on the government’s orders, for allegedly spreading misinformation about the farmers’ protest, ANI reported.
“What I would say generally, is that around the world, we are committed to supporting democratic values including freedom of expression,” US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said, when asked to comment on the matter. “I think when it comes to Twitter’s policies we would have to refer you to Twitter itself.”
Twitter on Wednesday announced that it had withheld “a portion” of accounts which the Indian government had directed the microblogging platform to block. However, Twitter added that action was taken only against selected accounts as it did not believe that the government’s orders were “consistent with Indian law”.
The microblogging platform clarified that it had not taken any action against news media entities, journalists, activists and and politicians. “To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law,” Twitter said. The company added that it will engage in respectful dialogue with the Indian government.
Twitter also noted that internet freedom and liberty of expression were under threat globally. The company added that it would continue to advocate for the right of free expression on people’s behalf.
Meanwhile, the Centre reprimanded Twitter for not complying with its orders to take down alleged objectionable content from its platform. The government said that the company must respect local laws, irrespective of its own rules and guidelines.
Earlier this month, the Centre had directed Twitter to block nearly 1,200 accounts with suspected links to Khalistan sympathisers or Pakistan. Before that, it had asked for the removal of 250 accounts and tweets using the “ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide” hashtag. The government sent a notice to Twitter after it unblocked the 250 accounts, just hours after withholding them.
There has been a clampdown on the farmers’ protest in the aftermath of the violence during the Republic Day tractor rally. More than 100 people have been arrested in connection with the violence and several are reportedly missing. Protest sites near Delhi have also been heavily barricaded, with nails dug into the roads.
The crackdown on the farmers’ movement has also triggered international outrage. It began with pop star Rihanna’s tweet about internet cuts at protest sites near Delhi.
Amid global outrage, the Indian government issued a statement calling the tweets supporting farmers a “sensationalist” attempt by “vested groups” to intervene in India’s internal matters. The government also roped in actors and sportspersons to counter international criticism on social media.