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Take action or face action, the central government has warned social media giant Twitter, after it unilaterally unblocked over 250 accounts spreading fake news and inflammatory speech on farmers’ protests in India, following its advice on January 1.

“Twitter is obliged to obey the direction of the government and refusal to do so will invite penal action under Section 69A of the Act,” the IT ministry said in a statement.

Section 69 of the IT Act empowers the central government to block access to information generated, transmitted, received, stored, or hosted in any computer resource if it believes the content impacts the security, defense, sovereignty, and integrity of India.

The notice comes amidst international celebrities like pop singer Rihanna showing solidarity with protesting farmers. 

The Ministry of External Affairs, in its response, has said these comments tweeting on the issue were “neither accurate nor responsible”.

Twitter had suspended around 250 accounts on February 1 after the IT ministry directed it to remove them under Section 69A of the IT Act for spreading fake news and inciting violence with hashtags like “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide.” 

However, Twitter unblocked these accounts on the same night. Twitter’s assertion that these Tweets do not account for “inflammatory speech” was “meritless”., the ministry said.

“The direction to block the hashtag “#ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide” has been found to be instigating people to commit cognizable offenses in relation to public order and security of the state,” the notice said.

It also called meritless, Twitter’s assertions that “stock phrases and exaggerations/crude emotional appeals do not constitute inflammatory speech, in light of the judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

In response to international celebrities Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, and Meena Harris, showing solidarity with protesting farmers, the External Affairs Ministry said the inflammatory tweets on the issue were “neither accurate nor responsible”.

“Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” the MEA said.

Countering these international stars, many Indian celebrities flayed them for running “propaganda” against India’s policies. 

“Don’t fall for any false propaganda against India or Indian policies. It’s important to stand united at this hour w/o any infighting,” Ajay Devgn said in a tweet.

Akshay Kumar said, “Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let’s support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences.”

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