Alleging ‘Khalistan, Pak links’, govt wants 1,200 Twitter handles out

“Many of these accounts were also automated bots that were used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative contents on the farmers' protests. However, Twitter has not yet complied with this order,” senior Government officials said, on condition of anonymity.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has sent a fresh list of nearly 1,200 accounts to Twitter, asking it to either suspend or block them in India, sources said. These accounts, the notice sent on February 4, says “were flagged by security agencies as accounts of Khalistan sympathizers or backed by Pakistan”.

“Many of these accounts were also automated bots that were used for sharing and amplifying misinformation and provocative contents on the farmers’ protests. However, Twitter has not yet complied with this order,” senior Government officials said, on condition of anonymity.

Apart from the notice, the officials also said that the Government had noted that the social media platform’s global Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey had “liked” some tweets by foreign celebrities made in support of the ongoing farmer protests.

“If the platform does not want to respond to the notices sent by us, they are free to challenge it legally and get a stay order from the court. But until then, they are bound by the laws of the country and will have to block these accounts as per the notice,” an official said.

Twitter did not respond to an email from The Indian Express asking whether it had received the notices and if it planned to respond to them.

The new list sent by the IT ministry is in addition to an old list of 257 accounts sent to Twitter on January 31 when the ministry had asked the platform to block these handles and certain hashtags used by them.

The January notice had said that these handles had been “spreading misinformation” about the protests, which had the potential to “lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country”.

Twitter had responded by blocking some of the accounts but subsequently unblocked them, which had irked the IT ministry. Later in its reply, Twitter had refused to block these accounts further citing freedom of speech on its platform. The reply, however, had not gone down well with the Government, which had said that the platform could not possibly “assume the role of a court and justify non-compliance”.

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