Calls to “slaughter” farmers who protest against controversial agricultural reforms India trended for hours on Twitter Tuesday, as thousands of tweets encouraging police brutality against them flooded the platform.
Violence exploded in the Indian capital on Tuesday after thousands of farmers, who have camped on the outskirts of New Delhi for nearly two months to protest government farm reforms they say would hurt their livelihoods, entered the town and clashed with the police. Protesters broke through police barricades around the city and stormed Fort Rouge, a national historic monument. The police used heavy batons and fired tear gas canisters. Authorities have also shut down internet access in parts of the capital, which Indian officials have said. do frequently to quash the protests. At least one protester died.
On Twitter, supporters of the Indian Hindu nationalist government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, called the protesting farmers “terrorists” and encouraged police brutality against them. “They are not farmers. These are worms, wearing fake farmer masks, ”read one of the viral tweets, which used the hashtag“ #shoot ”. “Asking @AmitShah #shot on sight is only one option,” another tweet said, tagging India’s interior minister and Modi’s right-hand man responsible for public order in the country.
“Hit them with your batons, Delhi police,” editor of pro-government propaganda blog tweeted in hindi. “We are with you.”
Tuesday morning, “Shoot” was one of the hottest topics on the platform in India, besides the Hindi phrase “Dilli Police lath bajao” – which loosely translates to “Delhi Police, hit them with your batons “.
“Shoot” remained in the Trends section of Twitter in India for at least a few hours. He only disappeared after a public outcry and after BuzzFeed News sent an email asking for comment. The company also deleted the blog editor’s tweet, claiming he was breaking Twitter rules and suspended his account for 12 hours. Yet the Hindi phrase encouraging the police to use their batons remained a trending topic for at least an hour. A search for “#shoot” revealed hundreds of tweets asking police to shoot protesters.
“We have taken steps today to protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, abuse and threats which could trigger the risk of damage offline“, a Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.” Our team will take strict enforcement act judiciously and impartially on content, trends, Tweets and accounts that violate the Twitter Rules. We strongly encourage everyone on the service to familiarize themselves with the rules of Twitter and report anything they believe to be in violation. We are monitoring the situation closely and remain vigilant. “
A day later, Twitter released a new statement saying it had suspended more than 300 accounts involved in spam and platform manipulation. “We are monitoring the situation closely and remaining vigilant, and strongly encourage people on the service to report anything they believe is in violation of the rules,” the company said.
In the United States, several technological platforms including Twitter permanently banned former President Donald Trump from the platform after his supporters stormed the United States Capitol earlier this month. Trump had been banned from the platform “because of the risk of further violence”, tweeted Vijaya Gadde, Legal, Policy, Trust and Security Manager at Twitter. Last year the company put caution on one of the former president’s messages on the Minneapolis protests that read: “[When] the looting begins, the shooting begins. “
But experts have argued that Silicon Valley-based companies like Twitter and Facebook have a double standard when it comes to applying their own policies globally. In non-Western countries like India, which has slipped into authoritarianism under the Modi government in recent years, technological platforms often evolve slowly or not to act against people who use them as a weapon to cause damage in the real world.
Last year, for example, Twitter left dozens of tweets doxer interfaith Hindu-Muslim couples remain on the platform until BuzzFeed News questions society about them. In December, protesters gathered outside Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Alleging that the social network was content censorship displayed in support of Indian farmers protesting. And the Wall Street Journal reported that Ankhi Das, a senior Facebook executive in India, had prevented the company from taking action against a politician belonging to Modi’s party for posting hate speech, saying it would harm the company’s business interests.
Powerful interests everywhere have learned that the tools of Silicon Valley can be used to create a human rights bonfire, but the only time platforms care is when they get bad press “Alaphia Zoyab, director of advocacy at Reset, one for tackling the information crisis created by technology platforms, said BuzzFeed News.
“When Silicon Valley has to choose between protecting commercial interests or protecting human rights, it will choose the first solution,” she added. “The point is, their current business model is fundamentally incompatible with democracy and freedom, because a determined army of trolls in the power camp can simply hijack the platform to demand violence. “
Gadde did not respond to a request for comment, and Twitter declined to respond whether accounts in India promoting violence would be banned permanently.