On Monday, Twitter decided to defy an order by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India to block or remove 1,178 accounts from the social media website. These accounts were on the radar of security forces as Pakistani-run accounts trying to incite people in the midst of the ongoing Farmers Protest. Twitter was given this list of suspicious account of February 4th.
However, Twitter has refused to take any action pertaining to the list of suspicious accounts. On Monday, Twitter released a statement in an attempt to offer an explanation for its disregard for Indian security. But, a particular phrase in Twitter’s statement has caused controversy on its own. In its statement, Twitter declared that “the tweets must continue to flow” in a callback to a statement regarding the Arab Spring protests almost 10 years ago. This trip down memory lane on the part of Twitter did not go unnoticed. Former Twitter staff were immediately able to connect the dots with the Arab Spring.
Here is a part of the statement issued by Twitter after they refused to comply with Indian laws. If one notices, in the last point mentioned by Twitter, the sentence summarily ends with “Tweets should flow”.
As mentioned earlier, these exact words were used by Twitter precisely 10 years ago during the Arab Spring.
During the Arab Spring, Twitter had said, “Our goal is to instantly connect people everywhere to what is most meaningful to them. For this to happen, freedom of expression is essential. Some Tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country, some make us laugh, some make us think, some downright anger a vast majority of users. We don’t always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content”.
What was essential, is the subtle messaging by Twitter when it said, “Some Tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country”. It basically gave us a window into the functioning of Twitter where it thinks that it believed that perhaps, the Arab countries were repressed and that the Arab Spring was a moment of emancipation.
In that context, when one reads how “tweets must flow” in India in the Twitter statement, it becomes almost clear that Twitter considers India, a vibrant democracy of over a billion people, a ‘repressed country’ that it needs to emancipate by fanning insurrections.
It should be extremely concerning that Twitter equates the current Farmers Protest unrest in India to the Arab Spring. Even in its most charitable interpretation, the Arab Spring was a movement whose sole purpose was to oust a sitting government, non-violently or violently. Tunisia, the genesis of the Arab Spring, was the only country with a successful democratic solution at the end of it. Other Arab Spring countries like Syria, Libya, Yemen are now in a state of permanent war. Egypt is now under a military dictatorship. The legacy of the Arab Spring, except in Tunisia, is a legacy of eventual violence, death and non-democratization.
This is not to debate the intimate intricacies of the Arab Spring, but just to recognize that PM Modi is not facing ouster as Arab leaders did. PM Narendra Modi is the legitimate prime minister of the sovereign of India. PM Modi’s political party, the BJP, secured re-election with 303 seats in the Lok Sabha, an increase by 21 over the 2014 General Elections. This is not an Arab Spring situation, where there was a perception of illegitimacy about Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year-long reign in Egypt. PM Modi might even be the most legitimate leader on Earth, as he is the legitimate leader of the world’s largest democracy just in terms of the sheer size of the votes. Therefore, if Twitter chooses to disregard a mandate from the Modi Government, that is not some populist, free-speech stance, but rather a rebuke of one of the most popular leaders in Indian history.
In fact, one can even go as far as to say that Twitter is fanning an Arab Spring-like situation in India, hoping for it, by not withholding accounts that have either indulged in or fanned an insurrection in India.
It also stands to reason that Twitter refused to withhold accounts that were spreading disinformation and fanning an insurrection in India during the so-called farmers protest spearheaded by Khalistani terrorists, because it believes that the 26th January violence was akin to the Arab Springs.
We have extensively reported that the farm laws that are now being opposed by Khalistani elements disguised as farmers entail. Essentially, a) it aims at creating additional trading opportunities outside the APMC market yards to help farmers get remunerative prices due to additional competition b) relates a framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce c) aims to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances.
By all measures, and even by noted experts, these laws would enhance the price farmers get for their produce and end the hegemony of middlemen, who have exploited farmers for decades. The protests against these laws are mainly spearheaded by Khalistani terrorists, fanned by Sikhs for Justice, a banned terror outfit, foreign elements like Canadian MP Jagmeet Singh and those who wish to violently seize power and overthrow a democratically elected government and have aligned with radical leftists and terrorists to do so. These protests led to rampant violence on the 26th of January, which led over 400 policemen injured and the capital city under siege.
By using the same words for these motivated protests as they did for the Arab Spring, Twitter is admitting that they believe that these violence riots are necessary in India for democracy to “thrive” and is thus, an active participant in overthrowing democracy in India.
It is crystal clear that Twitter does not actually believe any of the free speech rhetoric it espouses. Twitter has a long, well-chronicled, history of banning non-Left accounts for their political beliefs, the most prominent being former U.S. President Donald Trump himself. In its explanation for the de-platforming of Donald Trump, Twitter cited a tweet by Donald Trump which read,“ To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” Twitter explained that this tweet, when taken into consideration along with the Capitol siege on January 6th, promoted violence, even though Joe Biden welcomed the news.
Interestingly, while Twitter has refused to ban accounts of politicians, journalists and activists in India who are fanning an insurrection, it had no compunctions in doing so during the Capitol Hill riots. They banned the account of the sitting president of the United States of America because they believed he was fanning violence – whether it was true or not is something that the American people need to decide.
Therefore, it would be foolish to assume that Twitter is a non-partisan actor when it utilizes its power to ban and de-platform an elected President on the flimsiest of excuses or reasons. In an article published on Monday, OpIndia cautioned its readers on the Color Revolution-like tactics that were being utilized against the Indian Government.
A Color Revolution, simply put, is an attack on foreign governments by contesting their electoral legitimacy, orchestrating mass protests and acts of civil disobedience, and leveraging media contacts to ensure favourable coverage in the Western press. This attempt by Twitter to equate the Farmers Protest to the Arab Spring through their statement has to be seen as an attempt by Twitter to delegitimize the Indian Government in the eyes of the Indian people and the rest of the world.