New Delhi: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is likely to draw fresh ire from India’s parliamentary standing committee on information technology, which has summoned him on 25 February to discuss ‘safeguarding the citizens’ rights’.
Sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told ThePrint that several complaints have surfaced that the microblogging website is shadow-banning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s account.
On its blog, Twitter suggests shadow-banning is “deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.”
“We do not shadow ban,” it adds.
‘Didn’t get notifications from PM’s account’
Many users who levelled the accusation tagged the prime minister and the Parliament IT panel chairman Anurag Thakur in their tweets.
Some right-wing handles even cautioned the government against it. Twitter user @tanujsinha noted on 3 February that he follows both @narendramodi and @PMOIndia but rarely sees their tweets. Tagging Thakur, another user @piyushkshahi tweeted that the PM’s account had been shadow banned.
PM Modi s profile is shadow banned! After four hours he has only 1000 rts? R u kidding me! Well done jack! Its time to dig ur grave! Nvr ever play with worlds most honest n hard working person! U l pay heavy price!
— Stem cells and me!! (@prithivkumar) February 12, 2019
Sir, ur account has been shadow banned by @Twitter n @jack after conspiring with @INCIndia n @RahulGandhi. Plz take note @ianuragthakur n see the no of likes n RTs not matching the patterns of tweets from Modi. pic.twitter.com/anNBmRVjvQ
— Dimensions of GnGruj 🇮🇳 (@GnGruj) February 12, 2019
— Piyush Shahi⛳ (@Piyushkshahi) February 12, 2019
— tanuj (@tanujsinha) February 3, 2019
— Vipin Menon (@vipinrocs) February 3, 2019
BJP spokesperson Suresh Nakhua too claimed he had seen the shadow-banning of the PM’s account first hand.
“I wouldn’t call it (shadow banning of PM’s account) an allegation. Jack Dorsey on the record confessed shadow banning 6 lakh accounts in the past,” said Nakhua.
“He has also confessed employees of platform has a left leaning bias. I myself experienced shadow banning, I did not receive notifications from the PM’s account,” he said.
Asked about the alleged ‘ban’, Thakur said that he had not received any such complaint.
“I am not aware of this. However, there have been many complaints regarding the functioning of Twitter. Many ministers too have complained,” said Thakur.
“There is obviously a question mark on how Twitter is functioning. In the parliamentary standing committee, any member can raise any concern about the functioning of Twitter during the next meeting,” he said.
Twitter categorically denied the allegation when reached by ThePrint.
“We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology,” a senior representative of the social media platform said.
Disappearing likes on Twitter
Many Twitter users, including Thawar Chand Gehlot, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, have alleged that the likes and retweets on their posts have decreased. On this count, Twitter issued a generic statement saying that some people around the world are witnessing problems with notifications, likes and retweets and it is working on a solution for it.
Nakhua, however, alleged that the ‘bug’ was affecting right-wing handles but not the Congress members’ handles.
“While PM’s and Jaitley ji’s likes are decreasing, those of someone in Congress who hasn’t done anything in life is increasing.”
While the IT parliamentary standing committee decided to call the website’s CEO Jack Dorsey or someone senior for clarification, the right-wing group ‘Youth for Social Media Democracy’ staged a protest on 3 February against Twitter alleging ‘anti-right wing’ bias, .
Dorsey had excused himself from the meeting citing ‘short notice’. Twitter also said it had no comments to offer in the first hearing before the panel.