Twitter received a legal request on June 12 to remove tweets from environmental activists protesting the construction of a concrete wall on Vainguinim Beach in Goa. Most of the tweets have the hashtag #SaveVanguinimBeach and tag the Prime Minister of Goa, Dr. Pramod Sawant. We contacted the Union’s Ministry for the Environment, Forests and Climate Change and received no response. Twitter and the Goa government did not respond to a request for comment either. Twitter generally receives such requests from the government or law enforcement agencies, and it is unclear who approached them in this case. At the time the story was published, Twitter did not respond to the request and the tweets remain visible.
According to a chart compiled by one of the volunteers, Aakash Madgavkar, sixteen of the 24 tweets tagged Sawant, and all but one used the hashtag #SaveVainguinimBeach. Divya Sahasrabuddhe, another volunteer, said the group is seeking legal advice to guide the way forward. “In the interest of transparency, we hereby inform you that Twitter has received official correspondence about your Twitter account. The correspondence alleges that the following tweet is against Indian law, ”said Twitter in an email to targeted users. “As a result of this request, we have not taken any action on the reported content. Please note that in the future we may be required to take action in relation to the content identified in this complaint, ”added the social media platform.
Activists have raised the issue of a concrete wall on the beach
The activists drew attention to a concrete barrier that is being erected in the middle of Vainguinim Beach, a small strip on the southern tip of Panaji. The barrier, which covers much of the shores of the thin beach, is being built by Fomento Resorts and Hotels Limited, according to reports asserts that the wall is an extension of their property and that the barrier was built to prevent inland erosion. The Quint reported that the Goa Coastal Zone Administration has sent a notice to the hotel chain asking for approval documents. Locals have complained that the wall is undermining the Strip’s value as a recreational area and that construction is taking place under the guise of lockdown restrictions in Goa.
This happens at Vainguinim Beach in Dona Paula, Goa & is done by the Neighborhood Hotel #SaveVainguinimBeach#HandsOffOurSand @savevainguinim
@ RNTata2020@TataCompanies@TajHotels@GoaTourism@ MichaelLobo76@DrPramodSawant@BabuAjgaonkar@SmtJMOfficial pic.twitter.com/ck0pVM6ZeL
– Aakash Madgavkar (@ aakash23m) May 22, 2021
MediaNama has reviewed the tweets and it is unclear what a government agency would request for removal. It is not unprecedented that environmental activists have been censored in this way without clear legal support. Last July, Delhi Police ordered a domain registrar shutting down the website of Fridays for Future, an environmental group, after the government accused them of blocking their email inboxes with messages against a proposed change made by the Department for the Environment, Forests and Climate Change earlier this year.
No clarity on who sent the request
Twitter does not disclose details of any legal request it is failing to comply with, so information about that legal request is not available in the Lumen database, where the company routinely submits information on country-specific censorship. So it’s hard to tell where this request came from. All of this is happening as the government arm twists Twitter in public and questions its status as an intermediary, essentially making the social media platform’s freedom of liability for tweets posted by its users difficult.
While some civil society groups like the Internet Freedom Foundation have argued that Twitter’s liability status as an intermediary will ultimately be decided by the courts, the company has not yet fully met the requirements of the recently reported information technology (intermediary guidelines and digital media ethics. Code) rules, 2021 exposing it to coercive action by law enforcement agencies; That already started when Ghaziabad police filed an FIR against the company for tweeting from users who allegedly communicated an attack. Twitter India’s MD Manish Maheshwari has reportedly been summoned on the case.