New Delhi: The ruling party’s unhappiness with Twitter may have increased on Saturday after the handles of least five senior officials of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) lost their verified status on Twitter for several hours. This happened soon after vice-president Venkaiah Naidu’s personal account too lost its blue tick for a few hours.
NDTV reported, citing RSS sources, that the organisation’s chief Mohan Bhagawat and his colleagues Suresh Soni, Arun Kumar, Suresh Joshi and Krishna Kumar were among those whose accounts lost their verification badges, which is the ‘blue tick’ next to the handle name.
On Friday, Twitterati noticed that the blue tick next to Naidu’s personal account had disappeared. With ruling party members and supporters expressing anger, the verified status of Naidu was restored within a few hours. The issue was apparently taken up by the Vice President’s Office.
Government sources, quoted by NDTV, stated that this was “contempt of a constitutional post”. “Twitter wants to test India’s patience,” they said.
Twitter had claimed that Naidu’s account had been de-verified in line with rules that verified accounts which have been inactive for a year and have not had a log-in for the last six months will lose their blue-tick status.
A similar reason was apparently cited for the RSS accounts, too.
A functionary of the RSS’s Delhi unit, Rajiv Tuli, told PTI that this “clearly shows biasness and a clear example of ”tech feudalism” by Twitter”. He asserted that several other Twitter handles have been “inactive but continue to remain verified”.
When the verification badge of the five accounts was restored after several hours on Saturday, Tuli said that it was done “after much heckling”.
Twitter and the Indian government have already been in a confrontation over requests for the suppression of tweets and accounts criticising the ruling regime over farmers’ protests and the handling of COVID-19.
Tensions arose when a couple of tweets of ruling party members were tagged as ‘manipulated media’ based on the investigation of a fact-checking website. The Indian government sought removal of the label, claiming that it will hinder a police investigation.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued a notice giving Twitter “one last chance” to comply with the new IT rules. If Twitter fails to adhere to the rules, then “exemption from liability available…shall stand withdrawn and Twitter shall be liable for consequences as per the IT Act and other penal laws of India.”