July 25, 2021
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Unanswered Questions

Unanswered Questions

While Congress spokespersons tried to feign surprise when questioned about the blocks on twitter handles of two journalists, and pretended that all was well with the world, the full list of the sites sought to be blocked was finally made public by Joji Thomas Philip of Economic Times today, who put out the four directives by the department of telecom (DoT) to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) between 18 August and 21 August: Government blocks Twitter handles of journalists, right-wing groups - here is the proof

In all, it emerged, that among the many websites, the directives to block Twitter handles were included in the notifications of  Aug 18, 19 and 20, none of which provided under which section of which law and for what reason were these sought to be .

There were three names on the directive dated August 18th

  1. https://twitter.com/ northeastblog
  2. https://twitter.com/ Hindujagrutiorg
  3. https://twitter.com/Assam_News

Three names on that of August 19th:

  1. @PM0India
  2. tajinderbagga
  3. habibty

And 14 names on the directive of August 20th  (16 were listed but PM0India was a repeat from August 19 and one handle, Barbarian Indian was repeated at #12 and #13:

  1. Dosabandit (@dosabandit),
  2. Eagle Eye (@eagleeye47),
  3. Twitanic (@anilkohli54),
  4. Sangh Parivar (@sanghpariwar),
  5. Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor)
  6. Amit Paranjape (@aparanjape),
  7. Sumeet (@sumeetcj),
  8. Kanchan Gupta (@KanchanGupta)
  9. Pravin Togadia (DrPravinTogadia),
  10. Panchajanya (@i_panchajanya),
  11. Barbarian Indian (@barbarindian),
  12. Scamsutra (@scamsutra),
  13. Ekakizunj (@ekakizunj)
  14. redditindia (@redditindia).

(The above is based on a hurried reading of the four directives appended below which remain to be properly studied and analysed and this hurried post is confined to Twitter related blocks mentioned in these directives)


Last night's collective outrage on Twitter seem to have ensured that by this morning the ISPs had removed the blocks and the Twitter accounts were back to being almost normal, apart of course from the halo of newly acquired  celebrity now  surrounding them.

Twitter also apparently cited technical difficulties in acceding to the government demand, while the government insisted that they will have to face action on failing to do so.

The home ministry on its part insisted that none of the Twitter handles were ever sought to be blocked, saying "security agencies wanted withdrawal of those webpages where offending images and videos were uploaded."  "Government is not blocking any individual Twitter account," a home ministry spokesperson told PTI, on the same day when the above list from the DoT was made public.

In addition, on the same day a news report quoted PM's communications adviser Pankaj Pachauri as saying: "Twitter has agreed to block the six fake PM accounts. They responded to our complaint saying we need to follow an internal channel to lodge a formal complaint in the matter."  This complaint apparently pertains to a previous period, but PTI quoted Twitter as saying that it was "now actively reviewing" the request and will be seeking additional information from the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology "to locate the unlawful content and the specific unlawful tweet". 


In what seems to have been a first, even hashtag searches were sought to be blocked, and absurdly the search terms sought to be blocked for twitter included:

  1. assamriots
  2. AssamProtest
  3. assamviolence
  4. NERiots
  5. Bodo&Src=hash
  6. Northeastexodus&src=hash
  7. NEstudents&src=hash

Despite these directives becoming public, it remains unclear what the intent of those who came up with these lists actually was. Did they convince themselves that doing so would mean that the safety of the country would be ensured (because no one would be able to see any tweet related to these hashtag searches)? Is that really the limit of their worries about what innocent Tweeters should be allowed to see? Or, as is more likely, was it just a proforma exercise done so that "offending websites have been blocked" could be claimed as a response to questions about why the intelligence agencies had been caught napping?


If we go by the home ministry's claim that "security agencies wanted withdrawal of those webpages where offending images and videos were uploaded," at least we have some specifics to go by (some problems have already been enumerated by Pranesh Prakash) which we can analyse at length later. But surely some one must explain the basis on which these Twitter handles and hashtag searches were included in these directives. Clearly some criteria must have been used — what was that? 

In case of the handles, were there specific "objectionable" tweets? Or retweets? Or sharing of objectionable links? We still do not know.

Even if one were to assume that largely "Internet Hindus" were sought to be targeted (one would have a similar set of questions about those who do not fit this category) were these considered the most dangerous inhabitants of Twitterverse? On what basis? Are they guilty of specific crimes? Could that please be made public?

If Twitter were to comply and actually ban these handles, would all be well with the world?  Would there be no more nasty "Internet Hindus" infesting the cyberspace once the above Twitter handles — apparently responsible for the recent  "disturbances" in the country — are banned, as sought, in these directives?





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