India’s Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology stated that the threat to fine or jail Twitter employees was issued after the social media service’s algorithms promoted protests that could potentially lead to imminent violence and affect public order situation in the country.
Indian farmers protesting new laws
All around India, farmers have gone on protest, demanding that the government repeal new agricultural laws. The three new laws – the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce Act, Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and the Essential Commodities Act – were supposedly designed to accelerate growth in the farming sector through private sector investment.
The government claimed that the laws were intended to help small farmers who may not have the means to either negotiate better prices for their produce or invest in technology to improve the productivity of their farms. But the protesting farmers have said that the laws went against the interests of small and marginal farmers.
“This government has been eyeing, how they can take the farmers’ land to benefit their capitalist friends, whether is the Land Acquisition Act, whether in the industrial system through weakening the labor courts and now this three-pronged attack on the Indian agricultural system through the two bills on farming – one related to APMC, the other one is related to contract farming and the third bill which is on essential commodities … a three-pronged attack on the Indian farmers,” stated Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi.
To protest the new laws, thousands of farmers have blockaded main roads across the country. The farmers have stated that they would not leave until the laws are repealed. Some have also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We will keep fighting till our last breath,” said Jhajjan Singh, a farmer at a protest site in Ghazipur. Singh added that Modi “should know that either he will remain or we will.”
Dorsey called out for supporting anti-Indian government tweets
Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey has been vocal about his personal support for the protesting farmers. He has demonstrated this by liking anti-Indian government tweets by left-wing Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah and pop singer Rihanna on his personal Twitter account.
“Why aren’t we talking about this?!” tweeted Rihanna on her account, sharing an article about the Indian government’s response to the protest.
“Rihanna has the Indian government shook,” Attiah said following the singer’s tweet.
In the face of Dorsey’s overt interference in the country’s domestic affairs, the Indian government has called into question Twitter’s position as a neutral party.
“If the founder of Twitter is openly taking sides, it does raise questions over the neutrality of the platform and how it deals with India’s requests related to the subject,” an Indian government official stated to the Times of India.
Prior to this, the social media giant has allegedly shadow-banned Prime Minister Modi from their platform. This move drew rebuke from Modi’s supporters online, who noticed that Modi’s tweets no longer appeared on their feeds. (Related: Twitter opposes censorship only when it affects Twitter.)
How Twitter would respond to the threat of jail time for its employees is still unknown. The company has tried to appease the Modi government in the past, blocking more than 250 accounts critical of the latter. These belonged to activists, political commentators, a movie star and the Caravan – an investigative news magazine. But the company has since restored the accounts, arguing that the tweets constituted free speech and were newsworthy.
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