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Government asks Twitter to block fake 'PMO India' accounts; site fails to respond

by Prasad Krishna last modified Sep 04, 2012 12:24 PM
A standoff between the government and microblogging service Twitter, that has got India's online community up in arms, continues, as Twitter is still to act on India's requests to block some of the fake 'PMO India' accounts.

This article was published in the Economic Times on August 23, 2012. Sunil Abraham is quoted.

India's Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal said, "Twitter has not responded to our requests in a satisfactory manner. The fake accounts are still there. The government of India is contemplating what action should be taken against Twitter and this will be announced as soon as we have finalised our response," he said.

Sibal further added that the government received a response from the US Department of Justice, which also agreed that the content on the sites India sought to ban was inappropriate.

Twitter's operating code allows for parody accounts to be allowed as long as such accounts clearly identify as parody. The accounts in question - including @Indian_pm, @PMOIndiaa, @dryumyumsingh, @PM0India- do so.

Unlike other popular parody accounts of world leaders, though, some of these accounts make no attempt to 'spoof' tweets from the Prime Minister. The user of the @PM0India handle, with over 11 thousand followers, has changed their handle to @thehinduexpress, and tweeted "When I've to parody PM, I'll use the other a/c and RT that. For countering media and Congress, this ID will be used. To hell with censorship."

An email by ET to Twitter Inc, received no response at the time of going to press. However, news agency PTI quoted sources saying that Twitter has communicated to the PMO that it would be locating the "unlawful content". "India is important to us and we would like to have clearer communication in these matters in future," PTI quoted Twitter as saying. Official spokesperson for Indian Prime Minister's Office Pankaj Pachauri confirmed that Twitter is looking into the matter.

Over the past few days, the government has blocked around 300 websites which it blames for spreading rumours that triggered the exodus of people from the North East from several cities. Google and Facebook on Tuesday told ET they were working with India in removing content which can incite violence.

"There is clear evidence that these social networks have caused harm and disruption. However, they need to be clearer about the way they go about blocking sites and other links. The block order contained around 20 accounts and over 80 Youtube videos.

It also had several mainstream media reports and a few Pakistani sites," Sunil Abraham, executive director of Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society said. Analysts do not rule out the possibility that Twitter itself will be blocked in India if it does not act.

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