Twitter owner Elon Musk under global fire for censorship - IAMC
Elon Musk

Twitter owner Elon Musk under global fire for blocking BBC exposé of Modi

After Twitter and YouTube censored a report critical of India’s Hindu supremacist Prime Minister Narendra Modi on orders from his government, Twitter owner Elon Musk has come under global fire for caving in to the pressure.

On January 21, the Modi Administration directed YouTube and Twitter to remove links to BBC’s documentary “India: The Modi Question,” which aired earlier this month and exposes Modi’s role in the killings of nearly 2,000 Muslims in a pogrom of Muslims in India’s Gujarat state in 2002.

Twitter’s decision to block the BBC documentary and tweets sharing its clips “directly pits the vow of the platform’s new billionaire owner, Elon Musk, to be a “free speech absolutist” against increasingly authoritarian laws governing the country’s online sphere,” wrote The Guardian.

NBC News wrote that Musk “acknowledged the subject in a tweet… while making no promises about what he’ll do.” Musk had tweeted, “First I’ve heard,” Musk wrote in response to a question from a Canadian lawyer. “It is not possible for me to fix every aspect of Twitter worldwide overnight…” NBC News noted that “backlash is building against [Twitter’s] apparent decision to comply with India’s demand.”

The Daily Mail of the UK noted that Musk had “caved in to pressure from India. Forbes, the US-based magazine, quoted an expert as saying that “Musk is a free speech absolutist so long as it works within his business interests.” Vice ran the headline, “Free speech absolutist Musk censors BBC doc critical of” Modi. Even Rolling Stone and Hollywood Reporter ran stories that Musk “bows to India’s request” to “remove” the BBC documentary. 

The Intercept quoted Indian journalist Raqib Hameed Naik as saying that ‘his act of censorship — wiping away allegations of crimes against humanity committed by a foreign leader — sets a worrying tone for Twitter, especially in light of its new management.”

Prateek Waghre, the policy director at the advocacy group the Internet Freedom Foundation in India said that Musk’s position on championing free speech on Twitter, already wildly inconsistent, was likely to be “severely tested in India”, as the furor around the BBC documentary had proven. 

Since Musk’s takeover, Twitter has restored several Hindu supremacists’ accounts known for posting hate speech directed at Muslims. 

Many have cited the compliance with the online censorship of the documentary as an example of how Twitter and YouTube are helping to further erode freedom of speech in India, in order to appease the Modi government and not compromise access to the vast and increasingly online Indian population. There are over 40 million Twitter users in India, making it their third largest market after Japan and the US.

European lawmaker expresses concerns over human rights violations in India

A member of the European Parliament has expressed grave concern over the “erosion of human rights and freedoms” in India. 

Speaking a day ahead of India’s Republic Day on Thursday, Alviina Alametsa said that India faces urgent human rights violations under the rule of Modi’s Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Alametsa is the Standing Rapporteur for India in the European Union’s law-making body.

“When I met these human rights defenders, I was shocked at how many of them work under very restricted circumstances, in an unpredictable and risky environment. Their offices have been shut down; their funds are frozen,” she said.

“Many international organizations have been forced to leave the country. Many activists have been detained without due process, and others silenced.” 

Alametsa was speaking as a guest at a parliamentary briefing on the topic, “Taking stock of Constitutional rights protection in India.” The virtual event was organized by The London Story, a think-tank run by the Indian diaspora in the European Union. 

Hindu men accused of first mob lynching of Muslim man under Modi regime are acquitted

A court in Maharashtra state acquitted all 21 accused in the mob lynching of a Muslim man in 2014.

Among those acquitted is Dhananjay Jayram Desai, the chief of a Hindu supremacist outfit, Hindu Rashtra Sena.

Mohsin Shaikh, a 28-year-old information technology engineer, was lynched to death by a mob of Hindu extremists while returning from prayers on June 24, 2014. 

The incident occurred within a week of Narendra Modi’s first term as prime minister.

The acquittal of the accused in what is described as the first mob lynching under the Modi regime sets a dangerous precedent for the increasing attacks on Muslims by Hindu supremacist mobs, who enjoy impunity from the police officials and the judicial system.