New Delhi: After government’s crackdown on Twitter over offensive content, users of the micro-blogging website hit back on Thursday.
The government has ordered Internet service providers to block some 20 accounts which were found to be uploading offensive content and disseminating scare-mongering material considered as threat to national security.
The government had warned Twitter of "appropriate and suitable action" if it did not disable the accounts immediately. There are fears that a failure on part of Twitter to remove the controversial accounts could lead to a total ban on access to the micro-blogging site. However, government officials have so far not said anything on such an eventuality.
Twitter, which does not have an office in India, refused to say anything. India reportedly has some 1.6 crore Twitter users.
The government has found itself on the defensive this week over what critics see as a clumsy clampdown on social media websites - including Google, YouTube and Facebook - that has raised questions about freedom of information in the world`s largest democracy, reports a news agency.
"Dear GOI (Government of India), Keep your Hands Off My Internet. Else face protest" tweeted one user, @Old_Monk60.
India blocked access to more than 300 web pages after threatening mobile phone text messages and doctored website images fuelled rumours that some sections of the minority community were planning revenge attacks for the violence in Assam, where 80 people have been killed and 300,000 have been displaced since July.
Fearing for their lives, tens of thousands of North-East migrants fled Mumbai, Bangalore and other cities last week. The exodus highlighted underlying tensions in the country.
According to documents, the government has targeted Indian journalists, Britain`s Daily Telegraph, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Al Jazeera television in its clampdown on Internet postings it says could inflame communal tensions.
The directives to Internet service providers listed dozens of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages.
In Washington, the US State Department urged New Delhi to balance its security push with respect for basic rights including freedom of speech.
"As the Indian government seeks to preserve security we are urging them also to take into account the importance of freedom of expression in the online world," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Nuland said Washington stood ready to consult with US companies as they discuss the issue with the Indian government, although it was not now directly involved.
"The unique characteristics of the online environment need to be respected even as they work through whether there are things these companies can do to help calm the environment," she said.
(With Agency inputs)