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2-min read

Twitter Deletes Adityanath's 'Green Virus' Tweet on EC Notice. But is it Too Little Too Late?

In what appears to be under direction from the Election Commission, micro-blogging site Twitter has removed some two controversial tweets made by Adityanath including the one in which he referred to the Muslim League as "green virus".

News18.com

Updated:April 17, 2019, 6:12 PM IST
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Twitter Deletes Adityanath's 'Green Virus' Tweet on EC Notice. But is it Too Little Too Late?
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath .(Twitter/ANI)
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After severe backlash and a notice from the Election Commission, social media giant Twitter finally seems to have woken up to the the truly horrific and communal nature of one of the comments recently made by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

In what appears to be under direction from the Election Commission, micro-blogging Twitter has removed some two controversial tweets made by Adityanath including the one in which he referred to the Muslim League as "green virus".

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While the deletion is in the right spirit and in compliance with the word of the apex election body, one can't help but wonder if the piecemeal response is too little too late.

The comments were made by Adityanath during a rally in Meerut on April 9, in response to the the Indian Union Muslim League, a long-term supporter of the Indian National Congress in Kerala, coming out in support of Congress President Rahul Gandhi's nomination from the minority dominated Wayanad constituency.

It took the Election Commission over a week to issue a 72-hour media gag on the firebrand leader, who is infamous for his communally charged speeches. The recent Ali vs Bajrang Bali comments in Bhopal where he essentially compared the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to a battle between the Muslims and Hindus is just one of many examples and the CM was also served a notice for the same.

Since April 9, several days have passed including the first phase of polling. Eight Lok sabha seats in Western UP have already gone to polls, including Meerut, the seat where the controversial statement was made. The region, which has both HIndu and Muslim populations in large numbers, witnessed fatal polarisation in the run up to the 2014 elections.

And yet, it was only after polls and the EC notice that Twitter decided to deleted the controversial tweet. By the time it was deleted, it had already garnered over 5,800 "likes" and over 1200 "shares".

When it comes to hate speech, it is not enough to rely on the vigilance of instituted bodies, especially during election season in a country as large and diverse as India. Twitter, as part of its policies, claims to actively resist hate speech and asserts itself as a platform that is trying to fight bigotry and communalisation. It has the power to block sensitive content as part of its editorial policies, especially content that targets religions, ethnicities, gender and more.

How then did it take this long for Twitter to react?

In September last year, the company took an oath to act against 'dehumanising speech". The policy was meant to prevent “content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target.” and yet, the company failed to act on time.

Adityanath is not the only one to have been given the rap by the EC, which was recently pulled up by the apex court for its inability to rein in controversial statements during elections season. Other political leaders to have been banned for 72 hours include Maneka Gandhi, Azam Khan and Mayawati. Yet hate speech and proponents of it remain active and out at large. It is not possible for any institutional body to constantly keep tabs on free speech.

Uttar Pradesh will go to polls on all seven phases of Lok Sabha elections 2019. While the future of the country hangs (quite literally) in the balance, social media platforms such as Twitter may need to up their game as watchdogs of political and social commentary.

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