Prasar Bharati CEO's Twitter Handle Among Accounts Suspended

Shashi Shekhar Vempati's account was "withheld" inadvertently by Twitter, government sources said, amid a purge of accounts found using an objectionable hashtag.

Twitter blocked around 250 accounts following requests from the Indian government.

New Delhi:

The Twitter account of public broadcaster Prasar Bharati's chief executive was among those blocked by the social networking company on Monday amid a broad sweep of users found using a hashtag deemed inappropriate by the government. The account was restored later in the evening.

Shashi Shekhar Vempati's account was "withheld" inadvertently by Twitter, government sources said, as authorities asked the US company to take down accounts that had used the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide during the ongoing farmers' protests.

Prasar Bharati asked Twitter to explain the reason for withholding Mr Vempati's account but soon deleted the tweet.

"Dear @twitter @TwitterIndia could you explain the grounds for withholding CEO Prasar Bharati's Twitter handle @shashidigital in India?" it said.

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, who chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Data Protection Bill that has been holding hearings with various internet companies, also condemned the move to block Mr Vempati's account and said it has "victimised the person who told you to take the right step".

"It shows how artificial is artificial intelligence While taking action they blocked his (Vempati's) account as well. This clearly shows when the real intelligence is missing this is what happens," Ms Lekhi said.

"The person who has made a complaint is obviously not a part of the process but by blocking that handle you are victimising the person who told you to take the right step," she was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

According to government sources, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY) had directed Twitter to block around 250 Twitter accounts which were using the objectionable hashtag and posted "fake, intimidatory and provocative tweets" over the weekend.

This was done on the request of Home Ministry and law enforcement agencies to prevent any escalation of law and order given the on-going farmer agitation, sources said.

In a statement, Twitter said that it had responded to "a properly scoped request from an authorized entity".

"Many countries have laws that may apply to Tweets and/or Twitter account content. In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time," the company said.