The Indian government is threatening to take action against Twitter, if
the social media website fails to remove material officials fear could
further inflame ethnic tensions.
The directive comes after
rumors spread over the Internet that Muslims would carry out attacks to
avenge ethnic clashes in the northeastern state of Assam, where 80
people have been killed and 300,000 displaced since July. The false
reports caused thousands to flee cities across India and return home to
Assam last week.
On Thursday, the government called on Twitter to
immediately remove "inflammatory and harmful" material. There was no
immediate reaction from Twitter, which has some 16 million users in
India has so far blocked access to more than 300 separate
Internet items, including content on the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation, Al Jazeera television and the British newspaper Daily
Telegraph. Websites such as Facebook and YouTube were also affected.
government has also limited the use of text messages following the
recent violence in Assam between members of the Bodo tribe and Bengali
On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman
Victoria Nuland said the United States is in constant contact with
American companies who may need assistance in dealing with the Indian
government's directive. She told reporters in Washington, that "as the
Indian government seeks to preserve security, we urge them to also take
into account freedom of expression in the online world."