The Twitter account of Indian analyst, Ashok Swain, mysteriously disappeared on Wednesday, giving rise to speculations if it was suspended by the social media platform itself at the behest of troll armies of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or whether Swain had simply deactivated it himself.
Twitter users who follow Swain suggested that the academic had suspended his account himself temporarily as part of a plan to take a break from social media. However, rumors are still swirling about the possible role of the Indian lobby at Twitter Headquarters who have previously been known to sympathize with the BJP.
There are concerns that Swain’s account might have been suspended by Twitter at the behest of the Indian government as the professor is widely known for his no-holds-barred commentary against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In several of his articles, he has slammed the current government for its policies against minorities, including Muslims.
Reports in the media earlier this year had highlighted how Indians working at top tech giants, including Facebook, had misused their authority to shield possible BJP accounts from disciplinary action. It was reported that social media giants did not want to offend New Delhi out of fears of losing out on a lucrative market like India.
In August this year, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), a top US business publication based in New York, reported in a story titled Facebook’s Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics that tech giants Facebook, driven by business interests, failed to comply with its own hate-speech rules and regulations while dealing with BJP leader T. Raja Singh and other ultra-right wingers affiliated with the BJP.
Singh had publicly incited violence against Muslims, particularly Rohingyas – but also other Indian Muslims participating in the anti-CAA protests – saying that they should be shot for being traitors. He even called for the razing of mosques – the worship places of Muslims. Despite the hate speech, Facebook did nothing to stop it from being shared on its platform.
The WSJ story, written by Newley Purnell and Jeff Horwitz on August. 14, 2020, reported that although the Facebook officials policing content on the platform were aware of the violation of the community guidelines, they failed to act as per the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for dealing with such types of hateful statements – because other sections in the Facebook argued that strong action against the ultra-right wingers will offend the Narendra Modi govt. and will hurt Facebook’s business interests in India.
Read more: Why Facebook has surrendered to India’s BJP?
The inaction of Twitter on the fake news around civil unrest in Karachi, rife on Indian Twitter last month, has further reinforced the helplessness or tacit policy of compliance of social media giants with the Indian government. The curious case of the Indian professor is perhaps another part of this horrifying tale.
I am trying to reach to someone in Uppsala University Sweden to find out what happened? If Prof. Ashok Swain just wanted to take a “break” from Twitter, then he could have just not tweeted for few weeks, why to delete/terminate “Twitter Handle”? We need to find out the details! https://t.co/hk2t7vBAkW
— Moeed Pirzada (@MoeedNj) November 26, 2020
Prominent political commentators have also commented on the issue. Journalist Moeed Pirzada, while giving his take on it, earlier today said that it was indeed confusing whether Swain had taken a hiatus from social media or been suspended from it, urging those who knew him to reach out and clear the confusion in this regard.