Facebook, X withhold multiple accounts linked to farmers' protest

The accounts belong to farm leaders Sarvan Singh Pandher, Tejveer Singh Ambala, Ramandeep Singh Maan, Surjit Singh Phull, and Harpal Sangha.
Screenshots showing withheld X accounts.
Screenshots showing withheld X accounts.Photo | X screenshot

More than a dozen accounts on social media sites X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook that had been posting content about the ongoing farmers' protest have been withheld.

The farmers of Punjab and Haryana have been protesting since February 13 to press their demand of a law guaranteeing a minimum support price for agricultural commodities, amidst other demands. A minimum support price is the rate at which the government buys farm produce.

Among the accounts withheld in India are the X accounts and Facebook pages of farm leaders Sarvan Singh Pandher, Tejveer Singh Ambala, Ramandeep Singh Maan, Surjit Singh Phull, and Harpal Sangha, The Wire reported.

Besides these, several other individual and organisational accounts, including one of a media outlet, were also withheld.

Screenshots showing withheld X accounts.
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Farmer leader Ramandeep Singh Maan told The Wire that he received a message stating that his X account was withheld on the night of February 12, when he was attending a meeting between farmers and Union ministers. He said he showed the message to Union minister Piyush Goyal, who said he was not aware of the matter.

“I asked Piyush Goyal how his government could ask us to believe them,” the farmer leader said, as quoted by The Wire. “I also asked Punjab NRI affairs minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, who was representing the Punjab government, if it was the AAP government who was getting our social media accounts blocked but he too refused to answer.”

In February 2021 as well, the government withheld the accounts of farmers' union pages and accounts of farmer leaders, who were protesting against three agriculture-related laws. During the farmer protests against the Centre between August 2020 and December 2021, demonstrators had extensively used Twitter to amplify their demands and highlight alleged police excesses.

Meanwhile, in June 1023, former Twitter CEO Jake Dorsey said that the Indian government had threatened to shut down the social media network in the country.

“India is a country that had many requests of us around the farmers’ protests, around particular journalists that were critical of the government,” Dorsey said on June 12 in an interview with Breaking Points, a YouTube channel.

“And it manifested in ways such as, ‘we’ll shut Twitter down in India’, which is a very large market for us, ‘we’re going to raid the homes of your employees’, which they did, ‘we will shut down your offices if you don’t follow suit’, and this is India, a democratic country,” he elaborated.

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The New Indian Express