New Delhi, Aug 25 (IANS): In the wake of widespread discontent on the social media over its decision to block certain Twitter accounts, including that of journalists, the government Friday clarified that it was taking action only against sites that "can cause damage".
Twitter, after not initially responding to government requests, has agreed to block six sites impersonating the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
Following fake messages about the Assam violence, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Friday said that social media accounts which have posted objectionable and inflammatory content are being blocked but there was no censorship.
"We are only taking strict action against those accounts or people which are causing damage or spreading rumours. We are not taking action against other accounts, be it on Facebook, Twitter or even SMSs. I assure you about this," Shinde said.
"There is no censorship at all. We decided on taking action because there were pictures of Myammar etc online, which were disturbing the atmosphere here in India. I am again reassuring you," Shinde added.
The government's clarification came in the wake of it asking Twitter to block some imposter accounts of the PMO and other social media sites.
Twitter has agreed to block all fake accounts using the name of the PMO.
The PMO said in a statement that it had "requested Twitter to take appropriate action against 6 persons impersonating the Prime Minister's Office". When the social networking site did not reply for a long time, the government asked the Cyber Security Cell to initiate action. "Twitter has now conveyed to us that action has been taken and it has "removed the reported profile from circulation due to violation of 'our Terms of Service regarding impersonation'," a statment said.
The ministry of communications and IT said that Facebook and Google were cooperating with the government and had decided to close down the "objectionable sites" listed by the government.
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said that Twitter, which has its server outside India, has said it is ready for talks. "So, we have provided 28 URL numbers under which objectionable material is being shown. Now the government does not know that who is behind these URL numbers, only Twitter and other sites are aware about it.
"Actually we don't have the identities; we have no way to find out the identities. So, the accusations that we are aggressively targeting someone's account or websites are incorrect," the minister said.
Meanwhile, some Twitter users, including Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, decided to blackout their Display Picture in a show of protest against the government crackdown on imposter sites of the PMO.
Modi, an avid tweeter, posted: "As a common man, I join the protest against crackdown on freedom of speech! Have changed my DP. 'Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan.'#GOIBlocks
In a related development, a controversy broke out in the twitter world after reports that the account of Milind Deora, the minister of state for communications and IT, was blocked by mistake instead of the account of an imposter.
The minister's account is @milinddeora, while that of the imposter is @milindeora.
News channel CNN-IBN News@ibnlive posted the news on twitter. "Milind Deora says his Twitter account has gone for verification, but normally verification doesn't lead to a temporary suspension."
However, the incident led to many who are upset at the crackdown on social media taking pot shots at the government.
PM Ban Mohan Singh@India_Review tweeted: "They told Twitter to block impostor account @milindeora and screwed up in the spelling and made it @milinddeora"
In reply Akanksha Patankar@Ground_Reality posted: "Lol! Mother of all goof-ups! "
Swarup@SwarupPhD, wrote: "Haa haa, hunter becomes hunted. #CorruptCongress minister Milind Deora's Twitter account suspended."
The government had asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block/disable 300 web pages such as news articles, blogposts and Twitter accounts, including that of two journalists, from Aug 18 to 21.
In what is being seen as "internet censorship" by many, the directive addressed to all internet licensees said: "You are accordingly directed to immediately block the access to above URLS only and not the main websites like www.facebook.com, www.youtube.com, www.twitter.com."