Twitter’s expansion plan for labelling govt-linked handles excludes India

Global microblogging site Twitter said Thursday it was expanding the identification and labelling programme for verified accounts run by government institutions, senior government officials and state-affiliated media to countries such as Canada, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

India, where the platform has one of the largest user base, and where it has over the past fortnight faced flak from the government for not acting upon certain accounts and content which were flagged to it as capable of inciting violence, has been kept of out the list of countries where the programme is being expanded.

As part of the expanded programme, Twitter will add labels to identify verified accounts of key ministerial personnel such as foreign ministers, ambassadors, official spokespeople and key diplomatic leaders.

“We’re also updating the label text to add more specificity to the government account labels by differentiating between individuals and institutions, and expanding labels to the personal accounts of heads of state to give people on Twitter additional context. As the next phase of this project, we will work to apply additional labels on state-affiliated media accounts over the next several months, taking an iterative approach to ensure we capture all relevant accounts,” the platform said. Last August, it started identifying and labelling verified accounts of political, state leaders and state-affiliated media in China, France, Russia, the UK and US.

In India, over the last fortnight, Twitter has been in confrontation mode with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. On January 31, the Ministry sent a list of 257 accounts to Twitter, saying these were “spreading misinformation” about the farmers’ protest, which had the potential to “lead to imminent violence affecting public order situation in the country”. Twitter responded by initially banning but then revoking the suspension the next day claiming that the notice sent by the IT Ministry was not consistent with the laws around free speech in India.

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