Social Media behemoth Twitter on Thursday informed Telangana High Court that it has removed “offensive” trends spreading “hatred against Islam” and hashtags attempting to portray Muslims as the spreaders of the Chinese coronavirus.
Senior advocate Sajan Poovayya representing Twitter in the court sought two weeks’ time from a bench of Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy, assuring them that the organisation had complied with the norms and that they need a fortnight’s time to file a counter as the response had come from San Francisco, US, where the Twitter headquarters is located.
Heeding to Twitter’s counsel, the judges asked him to file a counter by September 6 and posted the case to September 9.
PIL to curb Islamophobic hashtags was filed in June 2020
In June this year, the Telangana High Court had issued a notice to a PIL seeking action against social media giant Twitter for allowing its platform to be used to purvey hashtags that were Islamophobic in nature in relation with the coronavirus spread. Subsequently, the court had asked Twitter to file its counter in July 2020.
The PIL was filed by advocate Khaja Aizajuddin, who alleged that the social media platform allowed ‘hate-filled’ hashtags against Islam and Muslim for a long time until High Court issued notice to Twitter and the central government authorities over it.
Aizajuddin had sought removal of hashtags such as #CoronaJihad, #TablighiJamaat, #Islamiccoronavirusjihad, and others. In addition to this, the advocate had also requested the court to instruct the state governments to register criminal cases against Twitter users who were allegedly spreading hate messages.
It is pertinent to note that the hashtags such as #CoronaJihad, #TablighiJamaat were used on Twitter after Tablighi Jamaat emerged as the potent coronavirus hotspot in the country. Members of Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim seminary were found to have congregated for an event in Markaz Nizamuddin in contravention to the coronavirus guidelines. Furthermore, Tablighi Jamaat members who were being transported to isolation centres were found to be spitting on roads. Some of them even spitted on doctors, nurses and attendants in the isolation centres.
Nott the first time: Twitter had arbitrarily removed so-called Islamophobic content after Kamlesh Tiwari’s brutal assassination
While this has not been the first instance when Twitter had arbitrarily pulled down content that was branded as against the Muslims and Islam. In the aftermath of the brutal assassination of the former Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari, Twitter proceeded to remove hashtags that it deemed were against Muslims even as the Hindu Samaj leader was the victim of a hate crime by Muslims for his views on Prophet Muhammad.
Following the gruesome murder of Kamlesh Tiwari, which was committed by two Muslims and aided by several others, a hashtag ‘#मुस्लिमो_का_संपूर्ण_बहिष्कार (Total boycott of Muslims)’ was gaining traction on the social media website. Videos of Muslims threatening apostates and non-believers of dire consequences were spread through the hashtag. However, Twitter removed the hashtag, saying it wanted to “improve the health of public conversation”.