“Free-speech absolutist” Elon Musk censors BBC Doc Critical of India’s PM on Twitter
Twitter has censored links to a BBC documentary critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the request of the Indian government, despite CEO Elon Musk’s previously stated commitment to free speech on the platform.
The BBC documentary India: The Modi Question examined the role of the Prime Minister in the violent riots of 2002 that left more than 1,000 dead, mostly Muslims. The documentary highlighted memos and reports critical of Modi, including one that said the riots had “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.” The documentary has not been broadcast in India but has nevertheless caused a stir in the country with the application of emergency laws and The Intercept reported that requests for its removal have been made on Twitter.
Twitter responded to those requests, The Intercept reported Tuesday night, as the takedown requests coincided with reports from Indian Twitter users that links to the documentary were being blocked. Actor John Cusack, who shared a link to the documentary, was caught geo-blocking and told The Intercept, “I’ve received two notifications that I’m banned in India.” The blockades seem to have started days ago with requests for removal dated March 20. January.
“CENSORSHIP”, the Indian politician Derek O’Brien tweeted last week. “@twitter @TwitterIndia WITHDRAW MY TWEET #BBCDocumentationreceived countless views.” He posted a screenshot showing a notification saying the tweet was banned due to a legal request from the Indian government.
Musk called his acquisition of Twitter last year a victory for free speech and promised to only moderate speech on the platform when it exceeded the limits of the law. His actions since then have been a series of relapses. For example, he banned accounts that use public information to track his flights and the flights of other powerful people after saying he would never do so to protect free speech.
musk he called himself once “Free speech absolutist” and said that “some governments” were demanding that the satellite internet company Starlink block Russian news sources, but would not do so until “at the point of gun”.
Like any other technology company, doing business in countries with leaders who have authoritarian tendencies means obeying their laws, which is what happened in the case of the BBC documentary. Twitter’s proximity to authoritarians has been questioned since Musk’s takeover; Saudi Arabia, for example, remains the company’s second largest shareholder.
Musk did not comment on the censorship, instead tweeting “Be all you can be” with bee emojis and commenting on birth rates.