Twitter has blocked local access to accounts of Punjabi singer Jazzy B and three others in response to a legal request from the government on Sunday under the Information Technology (IT) Act, according to the Lumen database that collects and analyses complaints and requests for removal of online material.
The other three accounts are hip-hop artist L-Fresh the Lion, California Sikh Youth Alliance, and @Tarande61695394.
There was no immediate response from Twitter to an HT request for comments.
HT on Monday reported the number of the government’s orders to social media companies to take down posts and accounts under Section 69 (A) of the IT Act has risen steeply over the last couple of years. Nearly 6,000 orders such orders were issued until the first week of June this year up from around 3,600 in 2019 and over 9,800 in 2020.
The government has sent Twitter two non-compliance notices for failing to act against certain accounts in the last six months over posts on the ongoing farmers’ agitation and the Covid-19 pandemic.
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In January, the government asked Twitter to take down content on the farmers’ agitation that carried a controversial hashtag regarding the Prime Minister, saying that it was a threat to public order. While Twitter withheld access to the posts, it refused to take down content by activists and journalists saying that it violated the tenets of free speech. A month later, as the impasse between the government and Twitter continued over the demand to block 257 accounts and posts related to farmers’ protests, the government asked the company to take over 1,178 accounts that may “foment trouble”.
In April, the government issued emergency blocking orders to take down over 100 “inflammatory” posts and accounts across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram related to Covid-19, including an official Facebook page of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The government faced pushback against the orders with many arguing that the posts ordered to be blocked were critical of the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic.
Twitter will have to face “unintended consequences” including losing the legal protection from criminal liability that it currently enjoys if it does not comply with the new rules for digital content, according to a “last notice” issued on Saturday as a “gesture of goodwill” by the government to the social media firm.
The warning escalated a worsening standoff between the government and the social media company, which has previously urged the Centre to give it more time to comply with the new IT rules and raised concerns over the “core elements” of the norms.