India Backs Off Threat to Ban Twitter in the Wake of Ethnic Violence

The Indian government is now walking back an earlier threat to ban Twitter in wake of ethnic violence that triggered a massive internal refugee crisis.

Following ethnic riots in the state of Assam, the government in New Delhi blocked 310 websites and capped bulk SMS messaging for 15 days last month in an effort to quell sectarian hate speech and calm a nationwide panic that drove Assamese migrants to flood train stations across the country hoping to escape threatened retaliation.

After the Home Ministry determined that statements and doctored photographs disseminated through Twitter had contributed to the panic, the Department of Electronics and IT consulted experts on the feasibility of blocking Twitter across eight Indian states.

Officials close to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nixed the idea, according to the Times of India:

The [Prime Minister’s Office] was of the opinion that “water supply cannot be switched off to an entire colony just because a few taps were giving bad water”, the sources said.

Singh’s government has, however, decided to establish a committee to monitor the content of social media websites and services like Twitter and Facebook, in an ongoing effort to police them for inflammatory content.

Sunday Singh addressed the controversy in a speech about misuse of the Internet, and he said the government was working on a cyber-security strategy focused on threat management and mitigation, while protecting freedom of expression on the Internet.

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