“There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay down, do you want to mess me up? You want to screw up the works?”
Charles Bukowski once tried to tame a shrewish bluebird, now the Indian government is trying that with another. Twitter seems to have rattled the ruling executive with the amount of international attention it brought to farmers’ protests, and now the government wants the social-media site to place “reasonable restrictions” on some handles.
The February 2021 crackdown follows a series of censoring measures the government has pushed the site to take since 2017. This February 1, 257 accounts including that of Kisan Ekta Morcha and The Caravan were temporarily blocked. Ten days later, the government asked Twitter to remove tweets and accounts using hashtags containing the phrase "farmer genocide," as well as accounts the government accused of supporting separatist sympathisers and being backed by Pakistan.
While Twitter refused to fall back in line, it did suspend a few hundred accounts. Unsatisfied, the government’s supporters and ministers have been flocking to Koo, an Indian micro-blogging app. Koo is being promoted as India’s answer to the firangi app, though there is some titter around it having received funding from Chinese investor Shunwei Capital. This is not the first time Twitter has faced such an exodus. In November 2019, angry users rushed to Mastodon but the ire fizzled out soon. Whether Koo will also “Mastodoned” or go the Tooter way remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Twitter India has a hard choice to make. It can either give in to the government’s demands and keep trilling sweetly, or it can defiantly uphold its tradition of "free-speech".