The Kashmir Walla’s account was suspended without any possibility of appeal on 31 December following the retweeting of an article about the use of violence by Indian security forces against a religious procession in Kashmir – an article that the magazine published last August.
“The tweet attracted attention from Twitter users who we believe are part of right-wing social media cells and who may have reported the tweet en masse,” The Kashmir Walla editor Fahad Shah told RSF.
India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has an “IT cell” (information technology cell) that is notorious for manipulating social media algorithms in order to get the accounts of critical journalists and media outlets suspended automatically. This troll army was one of the world’s 20 worst digital predators that RSF named in March 2020.
Shad added: “It is unfortunate that we – as an independent and credible news source from Kashmir – were not given a chance to respond before the restrictions were placed on our Twitter account. Moreover, Twitter hasn't responded to the appeal that we filed.”
“We call on Twitter India’s administrators to restore The Kashmir Walla’s account immediately,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The total opaqueness surrounding the social media’s easily manipulable algorithms has been extremely prejudicial to press freedom in this case. As well as transparency, we ask Twitter to act responsibly by creating a channel through which this kind of sudden blocking can be challenged.”
In order to combat this kind of exploitation of social media algorithms by unreliable information providers, RSF has created the Journalism Trust Initiative, which is designed to give a competitive advantage to journalism that respects ethical standards – the kind of journalism to which The Kashmir Walla is committed.
India is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.