With the recent bans on Twitter and other social media platforms, is India becoming increasingly insecure as a democracy?

In recent times, India is getting increasingly perturbed and sensitive when it comes to people expressing their opinion for or against a particular issue that is trending at that moment in time.

Just yesterday, we saw an example of the same, when a storm of sorts started on Twitter after international pop sensation Rihanna posted a news article about the suspension of internet services at sites where farmers are protesting.

Lately, the farmers’ protest has been garnering much attention, different perspectives, viewpoints, and opinions both from within India and Global counterparts.

However, this trend does not mean and show that it is only the known personalities that are tweeting about the current ongoing crises; there could be thousands of ordinary people who would also be expressing their viewpoints on the issue.

It is not only about the farmers’ protest in India; there are several issues and events in all parts of the world that are commonly spoken about, and people from all over the world may choose to express their views and opinions about these issues.

While yesterday’s case pertains to Rihanna and Swedish Environment activist Greta Thunberg, who chose to express their views under the hashtag “Farmers Protest in India.”

However, possibly the latter went a little too far when she also posted a toolkit link – a link to a document – that contained plans about January 26 protest and other planned stirs around the globe.

This would lead us to the question – How did Greta Thunberg come across a list of planned farmers stir across the globe?

And why would an internal matter like farmers protest in India should become an international issue?

After the tweets, the government of India was quick to issue a statement – the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) – highlighted that the Parliament of India had passed the “reformists legislation” for the agricultural sector, which a “very small section of farmers” have reservation about and therefore the laws have been kept on hold while the two sides hold talks to come to a mutual resolution.

In this particular issue – it may be comprehended that there might indeed be an external element at play here, which is trying to gain and mobilize momentum in the ongoing farmers protest by publicizing the issue in the International media.

However, in the same breath, one also needs to take cognizance that many from India also chose to comment or express their views and memes on Donald Trump’s impeachment and the Capitol Building’s storming in the United States.

However, the US administration did not issue a ban on such views; instead, it steadily worked on the dynamics through its judiciary and internal handling of the event.

The critical element and question here are how does one and where does one draw the line between expressing an opinion and instigating an issue?

The line perhaps is as fine as the fine print of a mutual fund document- many within India’s political landscape, including sports personalities and other known personalities, were quick to present their response to these two tweets.

Hence, both sides present their viewpoints and counter viewpoints, but the fact that accounts should get blocked or suspended is perhaps taking the matter a bit much.

Twitter had to block multiple accounts in India on Monday at the behest of the government on the grounds that the users were posting content aiming to incite violence.

The Home Affairs Ministry had demanded the suspension of close to 250 Twitter accounts, and an order was issued against accounts that were using the # modiplanningfarmersgenocide that started on January 30.

It needs to be noted that India’s information technology laws give the power to the government to seek to block online content deemed as inciting disruptions to public order.

Meanwhile, Twitter claims that it complies with official orders as required.

While the Twitter handle of Caravan Magazine editorial director – Vinod Jose’s account was blocked, so was the Twitter handles of several farm leaders and protest supporters.

Can the latter be justified?

These suspended accounts also include popular reports by agitating farmers keen to present their side to the general population, apprise them of their protest, and gain public support.

Trump’s Twitter Ban led many critics other populists like Brazil’s Jair Bilsonaro and India’s Narendra Modi to be ousted from social media.
The ban of Donald Trump from social media led to an uproar for social media platforms to clamp down on other populist leaders that included Narendra Modi.

While Trump’s account was suspended from Facebook, a day after his supporters seized the US Capitol; twitter subsequently booted him out from his primary mode for broadcasting messages to his audience.

This led to a debate, and critics pointed out that now that these tech companies are willing to clamp down on political leaders in extreme circumstances, they speculated how far were Bolsonaro and Modi from remaining exempt.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro has been compared to Trump for his populist views and for downplaying the Covid -19 pandemics. He also had, like Trump, questioned the country’s electoral system.

Comparatively, Narendra Modi is not as openly provocative on social media; however, several from the opposition party have accused the BJP party of hate speech on Facebook.

The Observer also quoted an academic, the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Khaled A Beydoun, who said booting Modi from Twitter would be the “logical next move.”

Meanwhile, Several European figures, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested tech firms not regulate political leaders.

“The fundamental right [of freedom of expression] can be interfered with, but along the lines of the law and within the framework defined by the lawmakers.
“Not according to the decision of the management of social media platforms.”

Perhaps, the above viewpoints correctly articulate the complexities and the push and pull that these tech companies face, which have to frequently bow down and give in to the different governments’ demands from different countries.

However, at the same point in time, one cannot put a blanket ban on freedom of expression, opinions, and different viewpoints.

As the global arena shrinks and technology claims the center stage, people from all over the world are in the position to give direction to a particular issue anywhere in the world like never before.

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