The government on Friday defended the crackdown on over 300 webpages, including social media accounts, in the backdrop of the Assam violence even as politicians reacted to the curbs and stood up for free speech in their own styles.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi put up a black image as the display picture on his Twitter handle. “As a common man, I join the protest against crackdown on freedom of speech! Have changed my DP. Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan. #GOIBlocks,” he tweeted.
Modi, who has 8,69,551 Twitter followers, reacted after #GOIBlocks began to trend on the micro-blogging site in criticism of the Centre’s action.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh sent his friends a parody on his hairstyle that was put out by The Unreal Times, a satire and spoof portal. It had faked news that the government was clamping down on Ramesh for “parodying” Indira Gandhi with his “weird” hairstyle.
Ramesh apparently wanted to convey that union ministers were no control freaks and could enjoy jokes at their cost.
Milind Deora, MoS for communication and IT, who had only a day ago on Twitter defended the clampdown, found his account suspended for “verification”.
Deora has 20,000 followers and suspension of his account invited sarcastic comments. “Communication Minister Milind Deora’s Twitter Account ‘Suspended’. It’s like the Home Minister losing his house key,” read one tweet.
Another read: “Ah! I know what happened. Deora sent Twitter a list of people to (be) banned and signed his name under it.”
Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the government had only taken "strict action" against accounts "causing damage or spreading rumours". "There is no censorship at all," he said on a day Twitter finally acted on complaints from the prime minister's office (PMO) about six accounts impersonating it.
The PMO said Twitter had informed it that the six profiles had been removed from circulation.
Communications minister Kapil Sibal emphasised that the government had restricted some webpages on the basis of their content. "The accusation that we are aggressively targeting someone's account or websites is incorrect," he said.