Parts of India are facing extended government-ordered internet blackouts as the Indian farmers protest movement has grown. The farmers allege Prime Minister Narendra Modi's farming law, which ends the government's programs to keep commodity prices at fixed levels, therefore allowing free markets to dictate prices, favors large corporations over smaller mom and pop farmers.
"Internet access remained blocked Monday in several districts of a state bordering India's capital following violent weekend clashes between police and farmers protesting controversial agricultural reforms," CNN reports at the start of a fresh week of clashes.
"Online access would be suspended in at least 14 of 22 districts in Haryana state near New Delhi, until 5 p.m. Monday, according to the Department of Information and Public Relations of Haryana on Sunday," CNN continues.
The communications blackout which is intended to slow the unrest and ability of farmers to organize has been extended since it was put in place in a handful of districts last week.
Protests continue in #India over the new agricultural laws, with hundreds of farmers gathering in #NewDelhi to join a hunger strike as the #Indian government suspends mobile internet “to maintain public safety.”pic.twitter.com/yxoIgkWprm— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) January 30, 2021
The controversy has ensue since at least last summer with the farmers resisting Modi's reforms and deregulation program, and have gotten increasingly organized.
Protests have become especially fierce since the end of November, with tens of thousands of farmers clashing with police since establishing sit-in camps on the outskirts of New Delhi.
Early this week Twitter has moved to block protest-related accounts on orders from the central government which claimed a "grave threat" to public order:
Twitter on Monday temporarily blocked dozens of accounts and tweets in India at the Hindu nationalist government’s request, including those of a prominent news magazine and farmers staging mass protests in the capital.
An Information Technology ministry source told the AFP news agency the government had directed the social media giant to act against about 250 Twitter accounts and tweets that posed a "grave threat to public order".
An official representing the farmers said the move by the US social media giant is an outrage as the accounts "had not done anything wrong" other than to support freedom of protest and expression.
Latest: India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology directed @Twitter to block tweets and accounts in #India, including from high-profile individuals and magazines such as The Caravan.https://t.co/dXpjIcDhyy— The Juggernaut (@bethejuggernaut) February 1, 2021
An official Twitter statement over the controversy said "it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time."
It said this occurs when "a properly scoped" request is made - whatever that means.
Meanwhile, pop singer Rihanna has highlighted the protests in a viral tweet on Tuesday.
We wonder if Twitter also agrees with the government moving to cut off broad swathes of the population from internet access too?
At the very least, the company's blocking of the protest accounts appears to put it squarely on the side of the government crackdown.