Protest by social media users against the government’s move to block/disable 300 web pages, including some Twitter handles, continued despite ministers denying curbing freedom of expression.
Gujarat CM Narendra Modi joined the protest, blackening his Twitter display picture. “As a common man, I join the protest against crackdown on freedom of speech. Have changed my display picture. Sabko sanmati de bhagwan,” Modi tweeted.
In what is being seen as “Internet censorship” by many, the government directive addressed to all internet service providers (ISPs) said, “You are accordingly directed to immediately block the access to above URLS only and not the main websites like www.facebook.com, www.youtube.com, www.twitter.com.”
The directive asked the ISPs to block fake accounts of the Prime Minister Office, certain links of some media organisations and the Twitter accounts of political commentator Kanchan Gupta and journalist Shiv Aroor.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, however, said the government was only taking strict action against those accounts or people which are causing damage or spreading rumours.
He said, “We decided on taking action because there were pictures of Myammar etc. online, which were disturbing the atmosphere here in India. We are not taking action against other accounts, be it on Facebook, Twitter or even SMSes.”
Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said, “We have provided 28 URL numbers under which objectionable material is being shown. Now the government does not know that who is behind these URL numbers, only Twitter and other sites are aware about it.”
“Actually, we don’t have the identities; we have no way to find out the identities. So, the accusations that we are aggressively targeting someone’s account or websites are incorrect,” he added.
Netizens, however, remained unconvinced. “Congress blocking Twitter handle temporarily, soon public will block this arrogant congress permanently,” tweetted independent@Hazir Jawab. Another user, SN Jagadesh Kumar, tweeted, “How to unblock your Twitter account if the government blocked you? It’s simple, just bribe them with money.”