Twitter unblocks accounts of India’s main opposition party Congress

Twitter Congress opposition party
FILE PHOTO: Rahul Gandhi, leader of India's main opposition Congress party, speaks as he attends a protest rally against a new citizenship law, in Guwahati, India, December 28, 2019. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika/File Photo

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Twitter unblocked the accounts of India’s main opposition party Congress, its leader Rahul Gandhi and other party officials on Saturday, days after suspending the accounts over a tweet on the alleged rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl.

Gandhi’s account has 19.5 million followers. It was locked after he posted a photograph of himself with the parents of a girl who was allegedly raped and killed in New Delhi on Aug. 1, saying the family deserved justice.

The accounts have been restored after Twitter reviewed Gandhi’s submission of formal consent from people depicted in the image, the US social media giant said in an emailed statement, adding that it has withheld the tweet in India.

The tweet is available globally but withheld in India under laws relating to disclosure of the identity of children and victims of sexual assault, according to a notification from Twitter to a Congress leader, and seen by Reuters, after his account was reinstated.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala confirmed the restoration of all accounts and said the party “fought undeterred” against the block.

Gandhi criticised Twitter on Friday for blocking the accounts, saying the platform was playing partisan politics. A Twitter spokesperson said its rules were “enforced judiciously and impartially.”

For months, Twitter has been in a tussle with the government for not swiftly complying with India’s new IT rules that required the firm to hire compliance officers by May and are aimed at regulating content on social media. Twitter completed the hiring and complied with the rules this month, the government has said.

Twitter’s India chief, Manish Maheshwari, will take up a new internal role in the United States, it said on Friday, without giving any reasons. An internal staff memo seen by Reuters thanked him for his work in India during “extraordinarily challenging times.”

(Reporting by Abhirup Roy, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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