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Govt blocks Twitter accounts of journalists after fake PMO


The Union government has stepped up its efforts to stop what it perceives an online campaign of misinformation and rumour-mongering in the wake of Assam riots and has blocked several Twitter accounts, including two belonging to journalists, considered sympathetic to far Right in India.


The blocked accounts include those maintained by Kanchan Gupta, who until a few months ago was with the Pioneer newspaper, and Shiv Aroor, a deputy editor with Headlines Today news channel.

However, the blocking of Twitter account seems to be partial. The accounts have been blocked with the help of internet service providers (ISPs) and not Twitter. Accessing the accounts from India shows web users a message, telling them that "This website/URL has been blocked until further notice either pursuant to Court orders or on the Directions issued by the Department of Telecommunications".

Also, the block works only if the accounts are accessed using HTTP and not HTTPS protocol. Twitter allows users to force HTTPS, which is a secure protocol and doesn't let ISPs see the content that a user is accessing.

This means both Gupta and Aroor continue using the accounts even hours after the block was enforced and they remained in touch with their thousands of followers. When Nirupama Rao, India's ambassador to the US, talked about a discussion on a news channel on the subject of social media and government's current policy on it, Gupta tweeted back to her saying, "@NMenonRao Is that why UPA Govt has blocked my Twitter handle? Is that the reason? A reply would help."

Aroor, meanwhile, joked "Damn, my nose is also blocked now".

Following the ban on the profiles, many Twitter users in India started hashtag #Emergency2012. A few hours later, #Emergency2012 and #GOIBlocks were among the top trending topics on Twitter for India.

The general sentiment on Twitter seems to be that of against any sort of blocking. Several users say that even if the tweets are "offensive" blocking the accounts is against the freedom of speech. "Have the GoI gone mad? You may not agree with what they say but @shivaroor and @KanchanGupta are journos. Based in India. Why block them," asked Gautam John, an entrepreneur and a lawyer by qualification.

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