Beware! Twitter users from Kashmir may face strict action soon

Several Kashmiri Twitter users who frequently post about the Valley’s conflict have claimed to have received an email from the micro-blogging site on Saturday saying that an “official correspondence” was received about the content on these profiles violating “Indian law”.

The email – the language of each being the same except the name of the profile – says that, “…Twitter has received official correspondence regarding your Twitter account”. The email came from Twitter’s legal department, holding the email-ID “twitter-legal@twitter.com”.

It continues, “The correspondence claims that your account is in violation of Indian law. Please note we may be obligated to take action regarding the content identified in the complaint in the future. Please let us know by replying to this email as soon as possible if you decide to voluntarily remove the content identified on your account.”

But the emails do not specifically point to any particular post that has attracted the complaint nor clarify what exactly is the nature of the “official correspondence”.

The mail, however, says that the recipient “may wish to consult legal counsel about this matter”.

HT could confirm at least a dozen profiles have received such mails – including a few non-Kashmiris, like a Pakistani journalist Sabena Siddiqi. A bewildered Siddiqi had posted the notice on Twitter and asked how she, being a Pakistani citizen, could be breaking Indian laws.

A scrutiny of the Kashmiri profiles that have received the communication shows that some of the content they post take a separatist stand on Kashmir and severely question the role of the Indian state in Kashmir.

Responding to an emailed query from HT, Twitter said, the company doesn’t comment “on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons”.

The company, however, pointed to Twitter’s “Country Withheld Content policy” which elaborates that: “Many countries have laws that may apply to Tweets and/or Twitter account content. In our continuing effort to make our services available to users everywhere, if we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”

The policy guideline continues: “We have found that transparency is vital to freedom of expression. Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify affected users.”

The company also pointed to “Lumen Database” – an international database that collects and analyses legal complaints and requests for removal of online materials – and for reference, shared the link on the database to a complaint by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, dated August 24, which asks Twitter to block 115 handles for “propagating objectionable contents”.

A PDF copy of the communication is available on the database. It says that a meeting of the committee for examination of requests for blocking of access of information by public was held on August 4 and based on recommendation by the committee it was directed to Twitter to block/remove the 115 handles/tweets in “the interest of public order as well as for preventing any cognizable offence relating to this referred in Section 69A of the IT Act.”

A scroll down the attached PDF of Annexure 1 (which the government complaint refers to) lists the links to the 115 “objectionable” tweets and accounts. Some of the profiles on the list are those which HT has verified about receiving the mail.

A Kashmiri user who received the mail said, “It’s the face of India’s 21st century repression of Kashmiri activists. Since social media amplified Kashmiri voices to the world, it became a problem for the state.”

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