India’s ban on BBC Modi films tests Musk’s Twitter ‘free speech’ vow

T.His response by the Indian government was swift and severe. Days after the release of a BBC documentary on the current prime minister, Narendra Modi, examining his role in the 2002 joint uprising in Gujarat, the Ministry of Information announced: bottom. All links to footage have been banned on social media.

An emergency law introduced by the Modi government two years ago was used to enforce the ban.

Both Twitter and YouTube responded quickly to government censorship demands. Nearly 50 posts on his Twitter account have been deleted, activists, politicians and even Hollywood actors have been affected, along with an unspecified number of YouTube channels.widely shared clips of documentaryModi, who was serving as chief minister of Gujarat at the time, quickly took to Indian social media to claim that he had fomented the violence in which nearly 1,000 Muslims were killed and did nothing to stop it. disappeared.

This is not the first time the Modi government has used the Information Technology Regulations 2021 to censor online content critical of the regime. But the act of hijacking the BBC documentary is one of the law’s most high-profile uses, shedding light on the fragile and difficult place social media such as Twitter currently occupy in India, and the platform’s new It’s directly piercing the billionaire owner’s vows. , Elon Muskto become a “free speech absolutist” in opposition to the increasingly authoritarian laws that govern the country’s online sphere.

The 2021 IT Regulations, widely criticized by human rights groups and digital activists, give the government powers to remove content deemed to threaten “the unity, integrity, defense, security or sovereignty of India.”

Even before the law was passed, legal demands made by the Modi government to remove content from Twitter increased by 48,000% between 2014 and 2020. Company analysis transparency report.

two-part BBC A series chronicling Modi’s rise proved to be highly controversial in India, despite being only released in the UK, with “blatant colonial thinking” given by the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Allegations were made that it was “biased propaganda”.

Information ministry spokesman Kanchan Gupta called the documentary ‘hostile propaganda and anti-India rubbish’, and a student who arranged a screening at a Kerala university this week was accused of being ‘rebellious’. At Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, a student who attempted the same suffered an electricity and internet outage and was stoned by right-wing groups.

The BBC said the documentary was “rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards”.

Twitter and Youtube It is helping to further erode freedom of speech in India to placate the Modi government and keep it from undermining access to the vast numbers of Indians who are increasingly online. India has over 40 million Twitter users for her, making it her third largest market after Japan and the US.

“The use of the emergency law as a censorship mechanism is a very disturbing development, but it is not the first.” the internet Freedom Foundation of India. According to a statement submitted to Congress in July, action has been taken against 94 YouTube channels, 19 social media accounts and 747 URLs at the government’s request since the IT rule was passed.

Elon Musk 'enters Twitter HQ'.
Elon Musk ‘enters Twitter HQ’. Photo: @elonmusk/Twitter

Before Musk’s acquisition, twitter Twitter has reinstated some of the accounts that the regime has asked to remove, and last July, New Delhi took down the It filed a lawsuit in an Indian court, alleging it abused its power by ordering the company to arbitrarily and disproportionately delete accounts of government critics.

Twitter still reports all posts and accounts removed at the request of the Indian government to the online database Lumen. But YouTube is not.

But despite all his protests of being a crusade for free speech, there are indications that Musk’s Twitter may be far less bullish in standing up to the Modi government. When he was about to back out of the deal, he made it clear in court filings that he was dissatisfied with the lawsuit against the Indian government. We operate Twitter. “

Among the Indian accounts resurrected since Musk took over is the avid Modi-supporting actor, who was suspended in 2021 for posts deemed to endorse anti-Muslim sentiment and call for violence against minorities. I have a Kangana Ranaut account.

In taking over, he has fired nearly all of the 200 Twitter employees in India, although he has never mentioned a lawsuit. It is working to reduce import duties on electric vehicles, allowing them to access the lucrative Indian market.

Waghre said Mr Musk’s position in defense of free speech on Twitter was already highly inconsistent, as the turmoil surrounding the BBC documentary proved, and would likely be “hardly tested in India”. said.

“We are talking about pressure on free speech in the world’s largest democracy,” Wagle said. “Mr Musk’s promises have sounded hollow everywhere, but their impact will surely be greater in India.”

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