The demon of an Internet crackdown raised its ugly head again. However, this time it is the discernment of social media companies, which seen themselves as digital gatekeepers, who are mobilizing behind the concept of the freedom of expression for all.
During the past weeks, many users complained that their tweets or accounts were withheld or suspended for posting about incidents which occurred in India-held Kashmir.
According to the Pakistan government approximately 200 Twitter accounts were recently reported, whilst accusing Twitter of assisting India in its mission to silence Kashmiris as well as their supporters.
Twitter, in some correspondence with Dawn had maintained that the platform enforces its policies cautiously, whilst ensuring to be impartial to all users, regardless of their country of origin or political beliefs.
According to Twitter it supplies transparency by using combined efforts, which include: sending direct notices; visual indicators showing an alert of withheld content; publishing underlying legal requirements on Lumen, serving as a public depository for requests to remove content
On Lumen, the Indian Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology’s list of such legal requests, suggested that all the accounts which were censored belonged to users in Kashmir or their supporters.
The Indian government quoted Section 69A (of the Information Technology Act, 2000), against affected tweets, which it stated were violating its law. Such reported content was inaccessible inside India.
A lack of confidence and mistrust in Twitters reporting process, are related to the company’s inaction and inconsistency regarding its rules, additionally sending out a message that the platform does not consider the seriousness of the region’s politics.
An analysis by Dawn disclosed an account network, for example BMJ Youth and ETF Associates which were engaged in the mass reporting of Pakistani accounts which were suspended.
Users who posted about Kashmir have complained that Twitter shadow banned them. By doing this a post of a person can’t be seen by anyone else, whilst the user who posted it, is unaware of this.
Other accounts, especially Indian users, have indicated that their tweets which were to support the Kashmiris was pronounced on Twitter as sensitive content, meaning that it can’t be seen unless somebody clicks on it.
However, Twitter denied this and stated that it doesn’t shadow ban, especially not where ideology or political viewpoints are concerned, with no further elaboration.
This is where the issue lies. When the platform gets confronted about how it takes decisions about what tolerable speech is online, it just gives short policy statements.
With its share of issues, Twitter is not entirely correct, blaming its obscure moderation concerning non-compliance, on Pakistan.
However, holding Twitter accountable will be a process beyond contentious, conservative statements.
Twitter has a local presence of more than 34 million users & a revenue-generating industry which is India. Pakistan is also having almost a million users and it has to take into consideration if digital cooperation is one of its long term priorities or not.