The Prime Minister of India got his own Twitter and Facebook page a few months back. Interestingly, parody accounts of ministers and politicians existed much before that and had gained a huge following due to their humorous takes on current political scenarios in the country. Now, around 6 twitter accounts which ‘resembled’ the official PMO Twitter account have been been blocked by ISPs. It was earlier thought that the blocking was done by Twitter itself but this is untrue as Pluggd.in points out. This request had been pending with Twitter since 2 months (according to the Government). It seems only one Twitter account (@PM0India) was deleted but is back up again.The others are being blocked.
The Indian Government says that it has faced a very poor response from Twitter about this request and also about the offending content pertaining to the North East situation. This is probably due to the fact that Twitter does not have an office in India. This is one reason why the Indian Government can’t force it to accept requests for takedowns. Twitter on the other hand deals with takedown requests from almost all countries in the world. The transparency report that they released sometime back suggests that they do look into all the requests for a logical reason and a possible Twitter terms of infringement and then go ahead and take action. If they cannot find any such reason, they do not follow the request. Of course the process is not foolproof when you consider the account blocking incident that happened during the Olympics. I don’t think Twitter actually checks for infringement on its own. It only relies on complaints that are filed by people and verifies them. According to Twitter’s terms and conditions, impersonation of an individual on Twitter is forbidden. Parody accounts and fan accounts are not forbidden, provided there is no intent to deceive.
Here is an excerpt from the Twitter guideline page:
Guidelines for Parody, Commentary and Fan Accounts
In order to avoid impersonation, an account’s profile information should make it clear that the creator of the account is not actually the same person or entity as the subject of the parody/commentary. Here are some suggestions for marking your account:
- Username: The username should not be the exact name of the subject of the parody, commentary, or fandom; to make it clearer, you should distinguish the account with a qualifier such as “not,” “fake,” or “fan.”
- Name: The profile name should not list the exact name of the subject without some other distinguishing word, such as “not,” “fake,” or “fan.”
- Bio: The bio should include a statement to distinguish it from the real identity, such as “This is a parody,” “This is a fan page,” “Parody Account,” “Fan Account,” “Role-playing Account,” or “This is not affiliated with…”
- Communication with other users: The account should not, through private or public communication with other users, try to deceive or mislead others about your identity. For example, if operating a fan account, do not direct message other users implying you are the actual subject (i.e., person, band, sports team, etc.) of the fan account.
I don’t know about all the 6 ‘blocked’ accounts but the @PM0India one is definitely not intended to deceive. It clearly states that it is a parody account and has satirical tweets for day to day developments. The account is back and has started tweeting against censorship. The account has gotten 600+ followers already.
I’m not dead. I’ve been reborn. To escape censorship.
— Dr Manmohan Singh (@PM0India) August 21, 2012
Since ISPs have blocked these accounts on orders from DoT, then I personally think it amounts to censorship. However, the ISPs have clearly learned a lesson from the previous Anonymous episode as they have blocked individual URLs instead of blocking the whole of Twitter as some publications were claiming sometime back.
Do you think humorous and satirical parody accounts should be banned? Share your thoughts with us.
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