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Government issues notice to Twitter, warns of action on ‘farmers genocide’ hashtag

The government has said that the hashtag is a ‘motivated campaign to abuse, inflame and create tension in society on unsubstantiated grounds. Incitement to genocide is not freedom of speech; It is threat to law and order.’

SNS | New Delhi |

The government has sent a notice to micro-blogging site Twitter for ‘unilaterally unblocked’ accounts and tweets linked to farmers’ protest. The centre has warned Twitter of consequences of ‘non-compliance’ despite its order.

On Monday, Twitter had blocked more than 250 accounts for tweeting or retweeting with the hashtag ‘farmer genocide.’ Later at night, Twitter had reinstated the accounts after blocking them earlier in the day.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Sunday sought ‘emergency blocking of 257 URLs and 1 Hashtag under section 69 A of the Information Technology Act.’ This move came nearly a week after the clash between protesting farmers and Delhi Police as the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic day turned violent.

The ministry in its statement said that the micro-blogging company ‘unfortunately chose not to comply with the same till almost the time fixed for the meeting of a committee.’

The government has said that the hashtag is a ‘motivated campaign to abuse, inflame and create tension in society on unsubstantiated grounds. Incitement to genocide is not freedom of speech; It is threat to law and order.’

The government stressed the seriousness of the matter, said, “It is thus clear that, the offending tweets/ hashtag remained in public domain and must have been tweeted and re-tweeted several times at the risk and cost of public order and at the risk of incitement to the commission of offences.”

The statement further read, “The Ministry is in receipt of your reply dated 01.02.2021, wherein Twitter has declined to abide and obey the order issued by the Government of India.”

The government said that Twitter ‘cannot assume the role of (a) court and justify non-compliance.’ The statement read, “Twitter being an intermediary is obliged to obey the directions as per satisfaction of authorities as to which inflammatory content will arouse passion and impact public order. Twitter cannot sit as an appellate authority over the satisfaction of the authorities about its potential impact on derailing public order.”

In the notice, the government quoted ‘more than half a dozen Supreme Court judgments including of constitutional benches as to what is public order and what the rights of authorities are.’

Earlier on Wednesday the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) reacted sharply to the tweets by celebrities, lawmakers, and other individuals from outside India in support of the ongoing farmers’ protest. The MEA in its a statement said that it is ‘unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these protests and derail them.’

Thousands of farmers are protesting at the Delhi borders since November 26 against the three contentious farm laws. The police have strengthened security measures at the borders after the violence on Republic Day.

The protesting farmers are demanding that the three farm laws be repealed and legislation for the minimum support system for their crops. The farmers feel that the three laws would leave them vulnerable to the big corporate houses and do away with the wholesale market system.

The government and farmer unions have been holding talks to end this deadlock but the talks have failed to end this protest. The government has refused to take back the laws but has offered amendments to it.