As the crackdown on bots, trolls, and fake accounts intensifies, Twitter has blocked several accounts in India, including the handle of polling app ‘MyVoteToday’ that in a recent poll had asked people who they want to be ‘silenced’ and listed options of chief ministers, opposition politicians and journalists, among others.
A Twitter spokesperson told PTI that it would “not tolerate behaviour that harasses, intimidates or uses fear to silence another person’s voice” but declined to comment on any individual account.
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“This account has been suspended,” is a response one receives when the ‘MyVoteToday’ handle is searched on Twitter. Twenty-seven other handles run by the promoter of ‘MyVoteToday’ have been blocked, too.
“Our investigation found that this account violated the Twitter rules,” a ‘MyVoteToday’ follower posted as a response he received from Twitter.
‘MyVoteToday’ which had claimed to be the world’s second-largest pollster and a “research partner of Government of India,” was created by Apption Digital Technologies Pvt Ltd. based in Bengaluru and Apption Digial Inc based in Palo Alto, California.
The Twitter spokesperson said it does not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons and does not give out country-wise numbers on the accounts that have been blocked recently.
While Amit Bagaria, the promoter of Apption Digital, could not be reached for comments today, Indian Express quoted him saying Twitter’s move was a “conspiracy to defame him” and these accounts were “wrongly locked or suspended.”
In a recent poll, ‘MyVoteToday’ had asked, “To #MakeIndiaGreatAgain which of the 66 alleged #EnemiesOfIndia have to be silenced” and listed 66 persons, who were critical of government policies.
The list had the names of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Congress leaders, Sonia Gandhi, P Chidambaram and Salman Khurshid, CPM’s Sitaram Yechuri, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, as well as several journalists, professors, artists, students and separatists.
In another poll, it had asked people who among a list—that included Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kerjiwal, Bollywood stars Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan—would they want ‘slapped’.
Twitter, which like Facebook is becoming more vigilant about any abuse of its platform for spreading misinformation, has been weeding out fake accounts by the millions.
“Twitter rules also state that you may not use Twitter’s services for the purpose of spamming anyone. This includes posting duplicate or substantially similar content, replies, or mentions over multiple accounts,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said, “We have a range of enforcement options that we may exercise when conducting a review for possible violations of Twitter rules, led by an international team that takes into consideration both local and global context.”
A permanent suspension is resorted to when an account violates rules in “a particularly egregious way” or has repeatedly violated them, the spokesperson said, adding, “violators can appeal permanent suspensions if they believe we made an error.”
As of May 2018, Twitter had “identified and challenged” more than 9.9 million potentially spam or automated accounts per week globally. This had led to the number of spam reports dropping from an average of about 25,000 a day in March to 17,000 a day in May.
Last week, U.S. daily The Washington Post reported that Twitter has sharply escalated its battle against fake and suspicious accounts, suspending more than one million a day in recent months to lessen the flow of disinformation on the platform.
“Twitter suspended more than 70 million accounts in May and June, and the pace has continued in July, according to the data,” the Washington Post said in a report on July 6.
The report said the extent of account suspensions is one of the several recent moves by Twitter to limit the influence of people it said are abusing its platform.