The Standing Committee on Information and Technology has sought an explanation from Twitter India on why the accounts belonging to IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and committee chairperson Shashi Tharoor had been locked, albeit briefly. Twitter has been asked to respond to the issue in writing within two days.
Twitter India’s troubles in India, however, do not end there. Shortly after securing temporary relief from the Karnataka High Court in connection with the fake narrative spread over a viral video of a 72-year-old man being beaten up, Twitter India’s Chief Manish Maheshwari was named in an FIR in Uttar Pradesh over a map on the social media platform’s website which shows Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as a separate country.
While the map has been removed from the career section of Twitter’s website, the social media platform’s issues with India and many other countries do not seem to end soon.
We take a look at the countries where Twitter has entered into a tussle with governments:
Nigeria: The government of Nigeria suspended Twitter indefinitely after the social media platform deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, warning people from southeastern Nigeria, predominantly the Igbo people, of a possible repeat of the 30-month-long 1967 Biafran Civil War.
Accusing Twitter of having an agenda, Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammad, said that Twitter did not delete the ‘violent tweets that Nnamdi Kanu has been sending’. Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has been pushing for creating an independent state for the people of the old Eastern Region of Nigeria through an independent referendum.
Nigeria has been accusing Twitter of double standards and supporting secessionists. Nigeria’s end-SARS protests, which is against police brutality in the country, has had its origins and growth through Twitter. Nigeria has around 40 million users on Twitter.
China: The country blocked Twitter in March 2009. The block was put in place after riots erupted between China’s Uyghur Muslims and Chinese authorities. While authorities have been cracking down on people circumventing the ban, many people continue to use it via a virtual private network (VPN). China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also has a Twitter account, while a number of Chinese embassies and diplomats are active on Twitter.
Iran: Twitter was banned in the country in 2009 in the wake of the violent aftermath of the Iranian presidential elections. Iran banned the microblogging platform for fear of protests being organised on the platform.
Twitter was unblocked for a day in September 2013 due to a technical error but was blocked again the next day. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is, however, active on Twitter and regularly shares his views and commentary, which are often incendiary in nature.
In January 2021, Twitter banned an account believed to be linked to Khamenei after it posted an image threatening former US President Donald Trump. In the image, Trump is seen playing golf with the shadow of a giant drone behind him. The caption ‘Revenge is certain’ is written in Farsi on it.
The account is believed to be linked to Khamenei as its actions mirror that of the other accounts run by the leader’s office. Khamenei had declared revenge against those responsible for the attack.
Egypt: Social media played a vital role during the 2011 Arab Spring protests, a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellion that spread across the Arab nations in 2010-11. As countries rose to counter the protests, Egypt blocked social media platforms including Twitter Facebook, Google and Hotmail. Twitter, however, did not disclose who was responsible for the block.
Turkey: In 2014, Turkey had banned Twitter for two weeks, after former Turkish Prime Minister and current President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, vowed to eradicate the microblogging platform, while speaking at an election rally. While Twitter reached out to its users with instructions on how to circumvent the ban using text messaging services in Turkish and English, Turkish users also flouted the ban by using VPNs.
Even the country’s former President, Abdullah Gul, openly criticised the ban via his Twitter account. He tweeted, “The shutdown of an entire social platform is unacceptable. Besides, as I have said many times before, it is technically impossible to close down communication technologies like Twitter entirely. I hope this measure will not last long.”
In January 2021, Twitter also faced an advertising ban in the country after Turkey passed its social media law last year. Twitter announced that it would set up a legal entity to be able to continue operating in the country.
As per the law, social media platforms and companies that have more than 1 million users will need to designate official representatives or face fines and advertising bans. According to Twitter, Turkey has made 45,800 demands to take down content. The country’s requests to take down information make up 31 per cent of all requests globally.
Pakistan: In April 2021, Pakistan temporarily banned Twitter for four hours, along with other social media platforms in the Islamist protests.
The protests, led by right-wing hardliners, had been going on in Pakistan for some time following the arrest of the leader of the radical Islamist party, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan. Protestors used social media platforms, including Twitter to organise and amplify the protests.
North Korea: The country formally blocked Twitter in 2016 and anyone trying to access it without the approval of the authorities are liable to punishment under North Korean law. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is, however, active on Twitter and uses the microblogging platform for promotional purposes. While it is difficult to access the internet in North Korea, some manage to do so via the restricted Kwangmyong intranet network.
France: Twitter landed up in trouble with the French government in January 2013, after antisemitic, homophobic and racist posts were posted by anonymous users, using the hashtags SiMonFilsEstGay (If my son was gay), #SiMaFilleRameneUnNoir (If my daughter brings home a black man), #SiJetaisNazi (If I were a Nazi), etc.
Lawsuits were filed by the French advocacy group, Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), and a judge ordered Twitter to divulge personal identifiable information of the user who wrote the post. Twitter agreed to remove the offensive posts but said that user details will not be handed over.
Uganda: In January 2021, Uganda banned Twitter, along with other social media platforms ahead of its presidential elections. Only those Ugandans who could circumvent the ban using VPNs could access Twitter.
Campaigning for the elections had been marred by brutal crackdowns on opposition parties by President Yoweri Museveni. The President, who has been in power since 1986, has been facing challenges from opposition parties including singer and opposition lawmaker, Bobi Wine.
United States: On January 8, 2021, Twitter permanently suspended the account of former US President Donald Trump, days before he demitted office. This was following the January 6 storming of the US Capitol Building by supporters of Trump. Twitter ruled tweets by Trump as violating its Glorification of Violence policy.
United Kingdom: In the wake of the 2011 England riots which saw thousands of people looting cities and towns in the United Kingdom, the then Prime Minister David Cameroon threatened to shut down Twitter and other social media networks. He, however, did not follow up with the threat. The riots were in protest of the death of Mark Duggan, a British man who was shot dead by the police in North London.