Bulk of tweets blocked in India focus on Kashmir: Committee to Protect Journalists

Mobile phone services on postpaid connections were restored in Kashmir after remaining suspended for 70 days.

Mobile phone services on postpaid connections were restored in Kashmir after remaining suspended for 70 days.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The U.S.-headquartered CPJ finds Twitter withheld hundreds of thousands of tweets.

A large number of tweets blocked in India by Twitter since August 2017 were shared by accounts that focus on Kashmir, according to a study by U.S.-headquartered The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“A CPJ analysis of those notices reveals that hundreds of thousands of tweets blocked in India since August 2017 [until August 2019] under the company’s [Twitter’s] country withheld content policy were shared by accounts that focus on Kashmir,” CPJ’s Avi Asher-Schapiro and Ahmed Zidan wrote in a blog post on CPJ’s website.

They added that among the dozens of accounts that were withheld, CPJ identified several that were sharing news and opinion, raising serious questions about what safeguards were in place to ensure freedom of the press and the free flow of information.

The research was based on analysis of some of the legal notices sent by the Indian government to the company operating the micro blogging platform. While these notices are not public, Twitter passes some of them to Lumen — a project of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center — which publishes them in an open database that CPJ analysed. The blog cited Twitter as saying it sends requests to Lumen unless “prohibited from doing so”.

Excluding copyright notices, CPJ found 53 requests, including 13 sent by the Election Commission around the time of India’s 2019 general election. The remaining 40 were sent by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Nine of those date from August 2019 when the communications blackout in Kashmir began, a spike from the preceding months, the CPJ researchers added.

“Combined, the 53 notices list several hundred URLs that they allege contain illegal content. CPJ analyzed every account involved, whether the request was based on a single tweet, several tweets, or the account itself, reviewing more than 400 in total. Around 45% of those accounts mentioned Kashmir in the handle or bio, or had recently tweeted about Kashmir,” the authors of the post wrote.

They added that 93 of those accounts were withheld in India when CPJ tested them in September and October 2019. Another 29 individual tweets from different accounts were also withheld. The vast majority of the withheld accounts were from the group that referenced Kashmir, hosting over 9,20,000 tweets between them, CPJ found.

Mr. Asher-Schapiro and Mr. Zidan also noted that Twitter did not act on every request. Several URLs remained accessible despite being cited, including tweets published by people listing professional media affiliations, or handles with the blue verified badge. Other accounts were suspended or not found at the time of analysis, they wrote.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 2:04:17 PM |

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