The spat between the Indian government and social media giant twitter has been making headlines fairly regularly recently. The most recent issue in this saga was the complaint lodged by a Hindu hardline group, Bajrang Daal. Leader Praveen Bhati’s report filed to the police over the small issue of Ladakh not being displayed on a map on twitter careers page has led to yet another case of treason being filed against both the platform and its managing director in India.
There is a strategy at play here and that is geared around the single-minded approach to bring twitter and eventually other social media firms under the Indian government’s heel. With the Modi government consistently marginalising minority populations, particularly Muslims and Kashmiris more specifically, this would help India avoid the recent scrutiny it has been getting in international media over its transgressions.
With the new rules announced in February, the past four months have seen an undue amount of pressure on the platform to comply or face dire consequences. It is clear that the Indian government will not stop until its demands are met. This unreasonable action is in line with other clampdowns attempted over the world on social media and the sort of opinions the users can propagate on the websites.
Here at home, we are well aware of the online harm rules that the government was looking impose—robustly protested by civil society activists and experts alike. But in that case, there was a concerted effort by the platforms to not only engage with the government, but also highlight the steps the Pakistan government was looking to take on an international level.
We must now see the same sort of active opposition from twitter India as well. Misinformation and censorship of divergent views as a state-sponsored tactic to paper over the crack and hide abuses will never be acceptable. The Muslims of India and the Kashmiris fighting for their rights have the right to a voice, and the Modi’s government’s clampdown must be fought against at all costs.
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