Twitter, The New Battleground For Indian Politics

About social media censorship by the Indian government and why Twitter is a new battleground for Indian politics

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One of my mundane activities is to start my day looking at Twitter trends. And #WhatILearntOnTwitter is one of the hashtags that has been trending for last few days. I am sure that this is not going to go off the charts because it connects with Twitteraties in a very simple way. And here was my contribution to the hashtag.

I have been on Twitter for some time now and have observed how celebrities to brands to common man use this simplistic conversation mode. The political tribe has not left itself behind and has been trying to reap benefits out of the medium. It was earlier in 2012 when the PMO office thought of opening its doors specially for the youth of India. Pankaj Pachauri was hired by the Indian Government to crack Twitter and later social media.

However, the Twitter performance report of PMOIndia has been going to the drain. When the country was facing communal tensions in North East, the Twitter account chose to keep tweeting about the mundane activities about our Prime Minister. However, it has been successful in blocking 6 Twitter parody accounts. The parody PMO accounts  were blocked on the grounds that one of them had tweeted a communal tweet and raised tensions, as told  by Mr. Pachauri to NDTV.

According to Twitter’s policy, one can create a parody account as long as it clearly mentions the purpose. So the question here is then why was @PM0India blocked. PMOIndia is not the only one facing the wrath of parody accounts on Twitter. From Obama to the UK’s Queen, all have parody accounts that are taking a dig on everything. However, the @PM0India has born again and is back in action once again.

The news has been out that Government has been behind Twitter for blocking the parody accounts for a while and this proved a great opportunity. Twitter, which had blogged earlier that it will follow the rules of the country, has budged down by the pressure of the Indian Government. The rampant drive of blocking has not stopped with parody accounts but a set of journalists had been blocked too.

This led to the birth of #GOIBlocks and #Emergency2012 that have been trending all day at top positions and #GOIBlocks is trending even today. What has been interesting is that the Government has not only pressurised Twitter but has also flexed its muscles on Internet Service Providers to block pages, accounts, etc. The Center of Internet and Society, which had analyzed 300 banned sites found that the move by Government has numerous mistakes and it is not about political censorship.

“This isn’t about political censorship. This is about the government not knowing how to do online regulation properly,” said CIS programme manager, Pranesh Prakash to NDTV.

Seeing this outburst, Narendra Modi who has been a prolific user of social media and a celebrity politician on Twitter, criticized the move of the Government’s crack down on Internet. The account took a dig on the move and had a black display picture to protest against the government.

Interestingly, the debate from the closed doors of Parliament has moved out and today is being fought on Twitter. Twitter is the new political battleground but I see the Government already losing it.

The Indian Government was anyways caught back foot when it failed to understand social media and with the great idea of blocking, it has crafted its own downfall in social media.