With Twitter ceding to Indian Government’s demands of reviewing the 6 parody PMO handles and the directive issued to ISPs to block several more Twitter handles, the India social media ecosystem has erupted in a debate as to whether this move by govt was wise or not.
We reached out to several Twitter influencers regarding this issue and this is what they had to say.
Nikhil Pahwa – Founder, MediaNama
It depends on the nature of the complaint and twitters terms and conditions. We’ve seen DMCA complaints against specific twitter status updates being filed by Cricket bodies in India, and in those instances, specific URLs are blocked or removed. I’m not sure of the legal situation regarding parody accounts in India, but in principle, I don’t think parody accounts should be blocked. I would expect the Prime Minister of a democratic country to be open to criticism and parody, and to have a thicker skin than this.
The blocking of parody accounts is a dangerous precedent being set by both the government and Twitter. We thought we’d seen the worst, in terms of government action and statements, last year when websites were being blocked. It just keeps getting worse – first with Kapil Sibal’s call for pre-censorship, then the lawsuits against intermediaries (Facebook, Google etc), and now this.
2012 is a critical year for Internet freedom globally, and it’s up to us early adopters to defend freedom of speech online so that those who come online in the next few years benefit from this unedited, unmoderated and uncensored flow of information, knowledge and opinion.
Ashwin Mushran – Actor and an active tweeter
Of course twitter is making a mistake by giving in to the demands but more than that, it is the Government of India which is making an even bigger mistake. Blocking idiotic parody accounts does not solve a problem. Vicious and malicious accounts should be checked but then vicious and malicious politicians and parties should also be checked. I Don’t see any banning going on there. That would a start. Now the GOI might block any handles which contain negative feedback about them. There could be no end to it and like we saw recently when a John Doe order was put out, ISP’s started blocking entire sites, affecting thousands of people. George Orwell’s Big Brother finally manifests itself 28 years later.
Nikhil Narayanan – Who builds products for the social web
Though I am not an IT Law-expert, let me comment on this. Twitter will have to comply with GOI’s demands, if it has to target Indian computers – this is what I understand. GOI has every right to ask Twitter to remove content(be it a tweet, twitpic, or even a handle) that affects the integrity, sovereignty or security of the nation. Now the question comes, what if GOI misuses this provision? There should be a mechanism for the affected person (be it a handle on twitter, a blogger etc) to raise an appeal with GOI, to file clarifications, revoke the request sent by GOI to Twitter, and to contest the request for ban. Unless there’s a provision like this, it can be used to even stifle opinions against GOI’s policies – which is unbecoming of a democracy.
What GOI did in the case of @KanchanGupta, @ShivamVij @Barbarindian @Aparanjape @DosaBandit was asking ISPs to block the access to the profile of these people, via browser, that too http access – or this is what I have understood. This must have been done because of the delay in Twitter complying with GOI’s request to get content/handles removed.
Since I do not have the full list of accounts that were asked to be removed/blocked, I will not be able to comment if this was completely ‘whimsical’. /*You called it ‘whimsical’ in the question*/
Inspired by Medianama’s RTI on this topic, I have filed an RTI seeking the list of blocked URLs, and copies of orders issued in connection with the ban.
Kaveri – Active tweeter
I have made it very clear from the beginning that I’m against the censorship of twitter. This is a free space and should always be. Despite of all the venom & vitriol that is so widespread on twitter, I don’t support censorship. Twitter is a free space & should always be.
Barbarian Indian – Blocked by certain ISPs
Absolutely, this is a big mistake. As we get closer to the elections, there will be more and more blocking and banning of free speech. However, perhaps this is a better option for all of us than having the entire twitter site taken down in India. We just hope Twitter inc fights every demand and not give in easily. We hope Twitter demands rational and objective explanations. Finally, we hope Twitter puts into public domain all demands of the Indian Government and if possible, all the correspondence.
Atul Chitnis - Active tweeter, Tech Expert
Reviewing does not mean blocking. Parody is a well-defined concept, and is not a reason for blocking. Even our venerable and respected leaders (neither term can be applied to the current crop) such as Nehru, Gandhiji and Ambedkar have been subject to parody in their times, and took it in good humour (which is why we respect them to this day).What we are seeing now is what has become known in many circles as “#sibalisation” – a process that attempts to progressively shut down modes of communication between citizens, almost certainly in preparation for forthcoming elections.
What the government is missing, however, is that even with the primitive communication tools available to Gandhiji, Nehru and others, they still managed to communicate with the masses and set this country free. This is the 21st century, and the modes of communication available to us are far more than the government realises.
I would advise the government to stop wasting their time lashing out at mosquitos, and start acknowledging the elephant in the room – that the voting Indian populace is extremely unhappy with the way the government has been performing.
What do you have to say regarding this whole issue? Let us know in the comments section below.