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Twitter 'withholds' multiple accounts over fake, provocative posts on farmers' protest

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New Delhi, Feb 01: Twitter on Monday “withheld” multiple accounts on its social media platform with the #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag, and making "fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets on Saturday".

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These include accounts of Kisan Ekta Morcha and BKU Ekta Urgahan that have thousands of followers and have been actively involved in the ongoing protests.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) directed Twitter to block around 250 tweets/Twitter accounts that were making ''fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets'' on January 30 with hashtags accusing the Modi government of planning farmers ''genocide'' without any further substantiation.

This blocking was done at the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs and law enforcement agencies to prevent any escalation of law and order in view of the ongoing farmer agitation, the sources said adding that these tweets/accounts have now been blocked.

The reports said incitement to genocide is a grave threat to public order and therefore, MeitY ordered blocking of these Twitter accounts and tweets under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

When contacted, a Twitter spokesperson said if it receives a "properly scoped request" from an authorised entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time."

Budget 2021 and the governments commitment towards farmers’ welfare Budget 2021 and the governments commitment towards farmers’ welfare

"Transparency is vital to protecting freedom of expression, so we have a notice policy for withheld content. Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify the affected account holders (unless we are prohibited from doing so eg if we receive a court order under seal)," the spokesperson added.

However, Twitter did not provide details of the accounts/tweets that were blocked.

Upon searching for accounts including Kisan Ekta Morcha (@Kisanektamorcha) and BKU Ekta Urgahan (@Bkuektaugrahan) -- a message saying "account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand" was displayed.

Besides these, several other individual and organisation accounts, including one of a media outlet and another of a senior functionary of a separate entity, were also withheld, even as debates started on social media over the development.

The development comes in the wake of violence in Delhi on January 26 during a tractor parade of farmers, protesting against the three new central agriculture laws.

The Delhi Police is currently probing the Republic Day violence, wherein it has lodged multiple FIRs and booked, among others, several farmer leaders leading the protests at the national capital''s borders since November-end. FIRs have been lodged against some journalists as well.

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