Twitter blocks JazzyB, three other accounts

Users checking JazzyB and L-Fresh the Lion’s account are shown a message saying “account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand”.

June 09, 2021 11:32 am | Updated 11:48 am IST - New Delhi

Punjabi rapper JazzyB

Punjabi rapper JazzyB

Twitter has blocked accounts of Punjabi rapper JazzyB, Sydney-based hip-hop artist L-Fresh the Lion and two others following demands by the Indian government .

Jaswinder Singh Bains aka JazzyB is described by his website as a “transatlantic superstar” and “the Crowned Prince of Bhangra, Born in Punjab and raised in Canada.” Hits by JazzyB include ‘Ghugian da Jorra’, ‘Dil Aah Gey Ya Tere Te’, ‘Londono Patola’, ‘Husna di Sarkar’ and ‘Naag’.

He joined farmers protesting against the government’s controversial farm laws at the Singhu border in December last year and has been frequently tweeting in favour of the protests.

Sukhdeep Singh Bhogal, who is known as L-Fresh the Lion, is an Australian hip-hop artist from Sydney, Australia. He too had tweeted in favour of farm law protestors, highlighting alleged deaths during the protests. Both artists took to Instagram to confirm that their Twitter accounts have been blocked in India.

According to an information on Lumen database, Twitter received a legal request from the Indian government on June 6 for actioning four accounts, including that of JazzyB.

Requests received by Twitter for withholding content are published on Lumen database — an independent research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content.

Users checking JazzyB and L-Fresh the Lion’s account are shown a message saying “account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand”.

Twitter’s statement

When contacted, a Twitter spokesperson said when it receives a valid legal request, it reviews it under both the Twitter Rules and local law.

“If the content violates Twitter Rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson noted that in all cases, it notifies the account holder directly so that they're aware that the company has received a legal order pertaining to the account.

“We notify the user(s) by sending a message to the e-mail address associated with the account(s), if available... Twitter is committed to the principles of openness, transparency, details of the requests to withhold content have been published on Lumen,” the spokesperson said.

Jazzy B reacts

Jazzy B said that he will continue to express his solidarity with people fighting for their rights.

The 46-year-old singer took to Instagram on Monday evening and reposted a screenshot of his Twitter account, shared by a page, which claimed that his profile was blocked for “raising his voice for the rights of farmers and calling for justice for 1984 victims.” The 1984 anti-Sikh riots, which had broken out after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, had claimed 2,733 lives in Delhi alone.

“I will always stand for the rights of my people. #KisanMajdoorIktaZindabad #NeverForget 1984, #RaiseYourVoice,” Jazzy B wrote on Instagram.

Supporter of farmers’ protests

Reports suggest that JazzyB had frequently tweeted in support of farmers’ protests.

Earlier this year, more than 500 accounts were suspended and access to hundreds of others in India blocked after the government ordered the microblogging platform to restrain the spread of misinformation and inflammatory content related to farmers’ protests.

Over the past many months, Twitter has been embroiled in a number of issues. Twitter had drawn flak after it marked several tweets by ruling BJP leaders on an alleged strategy document of the Opposition to target the government over COVID as containing ‘manipulated media’, triggering a sharp rebuke from the government.

The row over Twitter’s handling of certain messages had recently blown up into all-out war of words between the Centre and the social media platform.

Last week, the government issued a notice to Twitter giving it one last chance to “immediately” comply with the new IT rules and warned that failure to adhere to the norms will lead to the platform losing exemption from liability under the IT Act.

Twitter has an estimated 1.75 crore users in India, as per data cited by the government recently.

The new IT rules for social media companies that came into effect last month mandate large platforms like Facebook and Twitter to undertake greater due diligence and make these digital platforms more accountable and responsible for the content hosted by them.

The rules also require significant social media intermediaries — providing services primarily in the nature of messaging — to enable identification of the “first originator” of the information that undermines the sovereignty of India, the security of the state, or public order.

The new IT rules require significant social media intermediaries — those with other 50 lakh users — to appoint a grievance officer, nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. These personnel are required to be resident in India.

Under the new rules, social media companies will have to take down flagged content within 36 hours, and remove within 24 hours content that is flagged for nudity, pornography etc.

The Centre had said the new rules are designed to prevent abuse and misuse of platforms, and offer users a robust forum for grievance redressal.

Non-compliance with the rules would result in these platforms losing their intermediary status that provides them immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them. In other words, they could be liable for criminal action in case of complaints.

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