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Indian government censors tweets critical of Indian internet censorship

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The government of India in 2021 ordered Twitter to take down tweets by the nonprofit Freedom House that discussed declining internet freedom in India. Twitter only disclosed this request on Sunday. The tweets promote Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2021 report. Entrackr has reviewed a copy of the disclosure by Twitter. This content is no longer visible in India, but much of it remains available on Twitter in other countries.

“People were detained for questioning the government’s policies online, while connectivity restrictions beginning in August 2019 continued in Indian Kashmir,” text in an image accompanying one of Freedom House’s tweets said. The tweets all use a version of the world map with borders India disputes, a possible reason why they were singled out for compliance.

Among other content that was blocked by Twitter in India include an April 2021 tweet by Rana Ayyub, a series of political handles claiming to represent the Indian National Congress, official government and diplomatic accounts belonging to Pakistan, a handle belonging to London-based writer Farid Qureshi, and multiple accounts that were vocal about the farmer protests last year.

Twitter doesn’t appear to have complied with some of the requests it received; the disclosure accessed by Entrackr only shows tweets and accounts that Twitter has actually withheld in India.

For instance, the account of Mohammed Zubair, whose tweets on the BJP spokespersons’ Muhammad remarks controversy were among the most impactful, was ordered to be withheld in India by the Indian government. However, Twitter told Zubair earlier this month that it would not comply with the demand. As such, the requests by the government may be far wider in scope than the disclosure indicates.

Interestingly, Twitter says that these content removal requests came in 24 batches, but only disclosed (and apparently enforced) these requests on Sunday.

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