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Jack Dorsey allegations: Opposition accuses Modi government of ‘suppressing’ social media, BJP slams ex-CEO of Twitter

NEW DELHI: Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s claim that the Indian government pressured the micro-blogging platform during a farmers’ protest triggered a political row on Tuesday, with the Opposition accusing the Centre of “suppressing” social media and the ruling BJP charging the former Twitter CEO with making “false” allegations.

In an interview, Dorsey claimed the Indian government threatened to shut Twitter down unless it complied with orders to restrict accounts during the farmers’ protest against the Centre’s agri laws, an accusation Union Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar dismissed as an “outright lie”.

Citing Dorsey’s remarks, the Congress said the government should stop “suppressing” social media and journalists and demanded answers from the Modi government over the issue. The Opposition party alleged that there cannot be a bigger proof of the “weakening of democracy” in the country by targeting institutions.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the political progeny of the BJP-RSS who stood against Indians and fought in favour of the British in the freedom movement, should not pretend to be nationalists over former Twitter CEO’s remarks.

“BJP leads in embarrassing the country…. We will continue to foil BJP’s conspiracy to end democracy in the country,” Kharge said in a tweet in Hindi.

At a press conference, Congress spokesperson and head of the party’s social media department Supriya Shrinate said the government should stop suppressing social media and coaxing large sections of the media into submission.

“Opposition voices are regularly being suppressed by the government,” she alleged.

Shrinate said Twitter had banned Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s account after “pressure” from the government, and alleged that the “truth” has come out after Dorsey’s claim.

“The prime minister is afraid because crores (of rupees) have been spent to build his image and that gets demolished when such truth comes out,” she said, and added that Dorsey would not benefit anyway by speaking out now.

In the interview, Dorsey, who quit as Twitter CEO in 2021, claimed that the Indian government “pressured” the company with threats of a shutdown and raids on employees if it did not comply with requests to take down posts and restrict accounts that were critical of the government over the protest by farmers against new agri laws in 2020 and 2021.

Rubbishing the claims, the Minister of State for IT Chandrasekhar tweeted that Dorsey’s Twitter regime “had a problem accepting the sovereignty of Indian law”.

“No one went to jail nor was Twitter ‘shutdown’,” Chandrasekhar said. “This is an outright lie by @jack – perhaps an attempt to brush out that very dubious period of twitters history.”
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad also denied Dorsey’s allegations.

Prasad, who was the Union IT minister between May 2014 and July 2021, lashed out at the Congress for doing politics on the “sacked” CEO of the company.

“No threat was issued to Twitter. We did, however, flag anti-India activities being entertained on the micro-blogging site”, Prasad told reporters.

“We did raise objections to Twitter timelines teeming with footage of the Tricolour being pulled down at the Red Fort and police personnel being beaten up”, said Prasad, in an oblique reference to unsavoury events that took place during agitations against the farm laws, which were later repealed.

“There were also instances of unverified accounts of people not living in the country engaging in anti-India activities. We had requested that they act against such users”, said Prasad.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said the “false” allegations made by Dorsey were an attempt to cover up “past misdeeds” and Twitter’s internal communications had exposed that the platform was “misused and there was bias and tinkering”.

Thakur said many “foreign forces” get active at the time of elections to vitiate the democratic process and build tension, but such attempts have failed in the past and would not succeed in the future also.

The BJP’s IT department head Amit Malviya also came down heavily on Dorsey, saying the social media company was in violation of laws between 2020-2022 when he was at the helm of affairs.
Malviya said that under Dorsey the firm had turned “rogue, disregarding laws of the sovereigns they operated in, muzzling freedom of speech (shadow banning ideologically differing voices) and in many cases promoting secessionist voices and those who were working to exacerbate social fault lines, including several Twitter employees (Dorsey himself is guilty of it)…”

Several Opposition leaders slammed the government over Dorsey’s claims with TMC spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’brien tagging the ex-Twitter CEO’s remarks and alleged that

“Modi and his boys were not only intimidating farmers during the protests, see what else they did!”

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury hit out at the government and said the media eco system is being manipulated in an “outrageous manner”.

“Dissent is intimidated, journalists threatened, abused and jailed on false pretext. No amount of denial by the Modi government can obfuscate the truth of doctoring media content,” he said in a tweet

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it is “wrong” and “unfair” if attempts were made to scuttle farmers’ protests.

Rajya Sabha MP and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged that the BJP and the government tried to “crush” the farmers protest.

“They tried to defame the movement. They called farmers terrorists. They called farmers anti-national. They lathi-charged the farmers. They let farmers die. They tried to silence the opposition in Parliament.

“They tried to arm twist social media platforms to mute the voices of those supporting the farmers…but despite their might, despite their power, the farmers humbled their arrogance and forced the government to withdraw the farmers act. Indian democracy or rule of Modiocracy?” she said.

Congress general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal said Jack Dorsey’s statement today reinforces what the party has been fighting against all along – “PM Modi’s unabashed and persistent attack on democracy.”

“Threatening people with jail time, raids and shutdown of offices is not how the rule of law operates. It is shameful what the Modi govt has reduced the mother of democracy to, in their bid to grab power and curb all forms of dissent,” he tweeted.

Senior Congress leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister the BJP cannot tolerate criticism and put those criticising it behind bars.

“I have been saying that the Constitution is being shattered. Journalists, writers and litterateurs are lodged in jails,” Gehlot told reporters in Udaipur, referring to Dorsey’s claim.

 

Source: Press Trust of India

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