The Minister of State for Communication and IT says that his account had not been blocked but was being verified

Budging under government’s pressure, Twitter has finally removed six accounts similar to that of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for posting objectionable content even as the microblogging website agreed to hold talks with Indian authorities to break the current impasse on the blocking of web pages having inflammatory material.

The government on Friday made it clear that be it Twitter or other social networking websites such as Facebook or YouTube, it was firm on finding a permanent solution to the problem of misuse of the Internet for spreading rumours and false propaganda to create communal and social tensions. However, it reiterated that it was against any kind of restrictions on freedom of expression.

Notably, after Twitter took a “long time” to take appropriate action against six persons impersonating the PMO on the microblogging website, the IT Department’s Cyber Security Cell was requested to initiate action. But Twitter later conveyed to the PMO that it had “removed the reported profiles from circulation due to violation of our Terms of Service regarding impersonation.”

Jurisdiction

Meanwhile, Minister for Communication and Information Technology Kapil Sibal said the difficulty with Twitter was that it operated from outside India and the server of all such sites were outside the jurisdiction of India. “Now they have said that they are ready for talks with us. But the solution to this problem should be a permanent one. That will only happen when we talk to all the stakeholders and form such a mechanism under which any objectionable content is removed.” Pointing out that the government could have acted and imposed restrictions, Mr. Sibal said the government could not be blamed for action or blocking any website as it did not know whose accounts these were, and only Twitter and other sites were aware about it. “We don’t have the identities; we have no way to find out the identities. So, the accusations that we are aggressively targeting someone’s account or websites are incorrect.” The Minister, however, lauded Facebook and Google for cooperating with the government.

“The names of the objectionable sites that we had provided them… they cooperated with us on them and decided to close down those sites. We have also imposed restriction on those sites,” he added.

‘No censorship’

Similarly, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde refuted charges that the government was targeting any particular individual. “The government was taking strict action against those accounts or people which are causing damage or spreading rumours. We are not acting against other accounts, be it on Facebook, Twitter or even SMSs. There is no censorship at all. We decided on taking action because there were pictures of Myanmar etc. online, which were disturbing the atmosphere here in India,” he noted.

Deora’s account hit

Ironically, it is not just some journalists and activists who have been complaining of their web pages and blogs being blocked, even Minister of State for Communications and IT Milind Deora got a taste of censorship when his Twitter account was blocked. Moments after Mr. Deora wrote on his Twitter handle that “there is absolutely no intent of the government to curb freedom of social media platforms,” his account got blocked. On trying to visit Twitter profile, the message said: “The profile you are trying to view has been suspended.”

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