New Delhi: Senior Supreme Court advocate Sanjay Hegde is furious with Twitter for suspending his account — twice since last week.
Speaking to ThePrint, Hegde said deliberate targeting and mass reporting of his account by certain forces caused his account to be suspended.
“The Rashtriya Hindu Ekta Dal and other forces like that are proudly claiming that they have brought down my account, apparently in retaliation to other right-wing accounts being suspended. There is this continuous warfare going on and maybe I am fated to be collateral damage in this,” Hegde told ThePrint.
Hegde found his Twitter account “temporarily blocked” Saturday after he posted an iconic 1936 photograph of Nazi Germany in which German national August Landmesser is refusing to salute Adolf Hitler — a picture he had made his cover photo several months ago. Twitter subsequently reinstated his account Sunday, but removed the picture.
But it didn’t end there. On Monday, Hegde’s account was again blocked — this time for a tweet that dated back to 2017.
Appallingly @Twitter @TwitterIndia has displayed its cussed idiocy & bias by blocking @sanjayuvacha AGAIN! This time for quoting my tweet from 2017 which had Gorakh Pandey's poem against the first execution by hanging in independent India – of 2 peasant revolutionaries. pic.twitter.com/dUKb31Ur6r
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) October 28, 2019
“I had tweeted Kavita Krishnan’s tweet who had put out Gorakh Pandey’s poem ‘Usko Phaansi do’ along with its English translation ‘Hang Him’. All that I had done was give the title of the poem ‘Hang Him’ in my tweet,” Hegde said.
The poem was written by Pandey as an ode to two peasants who were executed.
After Hegde’s account was blocked the second time, #RestoreSanjayuvacha has been one of the topmost Twitter trends, with his followers imploring the platform to restore the account.
Who fought in SC against lynching ?
Who fights for endless victim of Foreigner Tribunal orders ?
Who fought for Aarey?
Who is fighting to get PMs degree released in public?
Who fought for the autonomy of minority education commission?
It was @sanjayuvacha. #RestoreSanjayuvacha pic.twitter.com/W6vwC1kXoh
— बुकरात वकील (انس) (@Vakeel_Sb) October 30, 2019
Sanjay Hegde's account was mass reported by RW trolls. Twitter asked him to delete a tweet, he decided to fight. Pending his appeal a/c stands suspended. His fight has shown us, that we have it in us, we can come together, we did it 👉 Trending at no.1 #RestoreSanjayuvacha.
— Sanjukta Basu (@sanjukta) October 30, 2019
For a simple reason, that we all must agree to disagree. No matter what. No matter how. No matter when. A difference of opinion, no matter how bitter, can not be the reason to stop free speech.
— Yashwant Deshmukh 🇮🇳 (@YRDeshmukh) October 30, 2019
‘Twitter put me in a catch-22 situation’
Hegde suspects that it was the phrase ‘Hang Him’ that ticked off the Twitter algorithm — but it wasn’t all that spontaneous.
“That seemed to have triggered off some AI (artificial intelligence) bots, but this time it was clear that those bots weren’t automatically triggered off but had been possibly mass reported by organised IT cells and troll factories,” he added.
Twitter, subsequently, sent a message to Hegde, asking him to delete the tweet in order to have his account restored. Hegde called this a catch-22 offer by Twitter.
“Twitter’s message said I can delete the tweet and have my account back. But if I decide to appeal against it, my account will be suspended. This is a catch-22 situation,” he said.
“I want an actual human to read the tweet, read the context, read the poem and then tell me that if it is in violation of guidelines or not. That does not seem to be happening.”
‘This is a greater fight for free speech’
Hegde suspects that there might be a bigger force at play behind why Twitter takes this kind of time to react to appeals.
“There are large forces which influence either by advertising or elsewise. It may just be that Twitter has been asked to go slow on the process of appeal,” Hegde told ThePrint.
“The appeals’ process cannot be indefinitely dragged on,” he added.
Hegde has an option to simply delete his tweet and come back to Twitter — a prospect that would please many of his followers who are up in arms against Twitter for the clampdown. But the lawyer refuses to oblige.
“I can get into Twitter any time I want if I delete the tweet, but I will not delete the tweet. I want my appeal to be decided.”
He added that this is a greater fight for free speech. “If speech has to be free, you may have to fight to maintain it. Those who want to object to it, can do so, but through a reasonable legal process,” he said.
Hegde, does, however, have a message to all his followers. “A man may be blocked, but not the idea. Keep the fight going, keep the idea going,” he added.
Seen as an anti-establishment voice, Hegde has often been seen taking strong positions against the Narendra Modi government on Twitter and otherwise.
“My basic idea is not so much against the government, or against the PM, it is against the idea that there are some people who are better Indians, or have a greater right to India,” he added.