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Modi Govt threatens to shut down Twitter, says ex CEO Jack Dorsey

Following former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s critical remarks regarding the Indian government’s purported censorship requests during the country’s farmers’ protest, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) found themselves embroiled in a verbal spat on Tuesday.

Speaking during a press conference at the party’s headquarters, Congress spokesman and chairperson of the party’s social media section Supriya Shrinate said, “The mother of democracy is seeing the murder of democracy in broad daylight and people are being coaxed into submission.”

Meanwhile, B. L. Santosh, national general secretary of the BJP, criticised the Congress’ response to Dorsey’s accusations and counselled the opposition party to “grow up.”

At the press conference, Shrinate said that the Modi administration had instructed Twitter to ban accounts that showed the farmers’ protests or the firm would be raided, citing Dorsey’s remarks.

“Twitter has become a platform for expressing public opinion. It is also a platform where news is generated. It is also a platform where the common citizens of the country can voice their concerns, opinions and what’s ailing them. Jack Dorsey has nothing to gain from this. He asserts that when farmers’ agitation was happening in India against the three farm laws, the Modi establishment pressured Twitter to block accounts that were showing farmer protests otherwise they and their employees would be raided and Twitter would be shut down in India,” she said.

“It all ties up together. In May 2021, when the farmer agitation was at its peak, the BJP fake news factory and multiple leaders had tweeted (about) an alleged tool kit which was tagged as manipulated media. And Twitter was then raided on 24 May, 2021. It happened because the idea was to suppress the farmer agitation,” she said, adding that the idea was to send out the message that anybody standing with the farmers will be scared like this. “But what is the PM so scared about?”

Former CEO and founder of Twitter Jack Dorsey claimed that the Indian government had threatened to censor the platform there in an interview posted to a YouTube channel.

“India is a country that had many requests of us around the farmers’ protests, around particular journalists that were critical of the government,” Dorsey said in the interview. “And it manifested in ways such as, ‘We shut down Twitter in India’, which is a very large market for us. ‘We’re going to raid the homes of your employees’. Which they did. ‘We will shut down your offices if you don’t follow suit’. And this is India, a democratic country.”

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the minister of electronics and technology, referred to Dorsey’s comments as “an outright lie” after they caused a stir.

“As a matter of fact they (Twitter) were in non-compliance with law repeatedly from 2020 to 2022 and it was only June 2022 when they finally complied. No one went to jail nor was twitter “shutdown”. Dorsey’s Twitter regime had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law. It behaved as if the laws of India did not apply to it,” he said in a statement.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, a former minister of information technology, added that the social media behemoth at the time broke Indian law.

Santosh, a senior BJP politician, criticised the Congress party’s propensity to leap “like a bunch of vultures.”

“Some zero credibility person opens up mouth in west & our Congress and their ecosystem starts jumping like a bunch of vultures. Grow up Congis. Here is a Govt & society which works of India, for India, by India,” he tweeted.

Shrinate claimed that the government was harassing social media platforms to silence voices of the opposition in an effort to put more pressure on it.

“In August 2021, the Twitter account of Rahul Gandhi was blocked and from August 2021 to February 2022 — for a period of six months — there was no subscriber growth in his account. It was only when the Wall Street Journal wrote to Twitter that they were going to do a story about the account suspension and dormancy in growth of subscribers, is suddenly when the shadow ban was lifted and his subscribers saw multiple times more growth. Why should I not say that this happened at the behest of the Modi government?” she asked.

Such tactics were being employed because of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which the Congress spokesperson claimed served as a “mirror” for the government.

Shrinate questioned the government on the security of digital information in relation to the ‘breach’ of CoWin vaccination data, which the administration has said was data leaked from a prior breach.

“Did you report the previous breach? When did the previous breach happen? Do we know who’s using this data? What is it being used for? How did a third party get access to this?” Shrinate asked.

“Each time you lie you open a Pandora’s Box. So, the reality is that you cannot keep the data of crores of Indians safe but you want to point fingers, you want to coax platforms into submission because they show you the truth,” she added.

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