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PTA reaches to Twitter on accounts suspended over Kashmir support

In the last one week, Twitter has suspended accounts of a large number of Pakistanis when they tweeted in support of Kashmir. Journalists, activists, government officials and military fans have claimed that their accounts were suspended after they supported Kashmir freedom and criticized India’s move to revoke Kashmir’s special status.

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News Desk |

Authorities have reached to the micro-blogging giant Twitter and sought an explanation over the suspension of 200 accounts suspended in the past week apparently for posting in favor of Kashmir.

Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Digital Media Arslan Khalid told Dawn that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has lodged an official complaint with Twitter’s regional office on August 19.

The spokesperson did not comment on the reasons that led to certain accounts — specified in the email — being suspended.

“We are approaching this case with a multi-pronged strategy where PTA has sent the complaint mentioning [200] accounts to the regional office seeking an explanation for their suspension. We are also working on a long-term strategy through the National IT Board (NITB) so that such a situation does not arise again,” he said.

In the last one week, Twitter has suspended accounts of a large number of Pakistanis when they tweeted in support of Kashmir. Journalists, activists, government officials and military fans have claimed that their accounts were suspended after they supported Kashmir freedom and criticized India’s move to revoke Kashmir’s special status.

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On August 17, the Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had tweeted that the authorities had taken up with Twitter and Facebook the suspension of Pakistani social media accounts posting content in support of Kashmir.

“Pakistan authorities have taken up the case with Twitter and Facebook against suspending Pakistani accounts for posting in support of Kashmir. Indian staff at their regional headquarters is the reason,” he said on his personal Twitter account.

Twitter suspends government officials’ accounts

A list of accounts — provided to Dawn by the focal person — reportedly suspended over Kashmir in the past week, includes Twitter handles run by some government officials as well.

The account of the focal person to the Punjab chief minister on digital media, Mashwani Azhar was suspended for ‘impersonation’. “His account was suspended for impersonation when he was tweeting on Kashmir. Another example is of Waqas Amjab of the housing ministry. The biased behavior of Twitter over Kashmir is ridiculous,” Dawn quoted Khalid as saying.

Twitter and sought an explanation over the suspension of 200 accounts suspended in the past week apparently for posting in favor of Kashmir.

“Over 45 Twitter accounts have been suspended in the last few days and the count is increasing,” said NITB CEO Shabahat Ali Shah while speaking to Dawn.

“I have written a letter to VP of the Trust and Safety wing of Twitter on behalf of the Government of Pakistan and expressed our concern about the recent suspension of Twitter accounts in context of launching protests against Indian atrocities on Kashmir. We have also mentioned there is a potential of public outburst against suspended accounts which could put human lives in imminent danger,” he told Dawn.

Read more: UN Security Council meeting on Kashmir sends India into Panic

“At least government accounts should not be suspended without prior notice to the authorities. The government, too, will document content posted through official channels and review complaints lodged against them,” Shah said.

“I have given them [Twitter] till Aug 23 to respond after which I will reach out to its CEO Jack Dorsey. The last step will be to write a letter, with Foreign Office endorsement, to the United Nations,” he warned.

Twitter denies bias

Twitter, however, maintains that it enforced policies judiciously and ensured impartiality of all users, regardless of their political beliefs and country of origin.

Pakistan and expressed our concern about the recent suspension of Twitter accounts in context of launching protests against Indian atrocities on Kashmir.

Responding to allegations of censorship and biased moderation on its platform, a Twitter spokesperson told Dawn that they were founded on the principles of free expression and there was no political bias in its content review teams that determine what content is considered a violation of its rules.

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“We believe people on all sides of an issue have a fundamental right to discuss them within the boundaries of our policies, which prohibit terrorism, hateful conduct, platform manipulation, and abuse. At Twitter no one is above our rules.”

The spokesperson did not comment on the reasons that led to certain accounts — specified in the email — being suspended. “We don’t comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons,” the official said.