Twitter Suspends Account of Anti-Hate Activist Asif Khan, Cites Violation of ‘Ban Evasion’

Date:

Mohd Asif Khan

Asif, who has over 80,000 followers, had expressed solidarity with Umar Gautam, currently in detention of UP Police on made-up charges of 1,000 conversions

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Twitter has suspended the account of Mohd Asif Khan, an activist and critical voice on social media who is known for exposing hate crimes against minorities and women in India. The action has once again sparked accusations against the social media giant of censoring critical voices in India.

Another social media activist Saket Gokhale said the suspension of the account is “a matter of great shock and concern”.

Similarly, Ashraf Hussain posted screenshots showing Asif’s account suspended as he tagged Twitter India in the tweet with the hashtag #RestoreimMAK02

Asif, who has more than 80,000 followers on his handle @imMAK02 said that on Friday morning he got a message from his friend that his account has been suspended. “I was like, ‘What?’ And When I opened my Twitter app I found he was right.”

His last tweet before suspension was about the arrest of Umar Gautam, a Muslim preacher who has been arrested by Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad over allegations of forced conversions. “If Maulana Umar Gautam was preaching Islam and propagating Islam then he was exercising his constitutional rights. Do you think a person can convert 1000+ people into Islam by force or by bribe in a country with 80% Hindu population?” Asif asked in a tweet with a solidarity hashtag #StandwithUmarGautam which briefly trended in some circles on Twitter.

The anti-hate activist said he had not been notified about the action which prompted him to lodge an appeal. The response from Twitter seen by Clarion India informed him that his account has been suspended for violating the rules of the platform “against ban evasion”.

Clarion India approached Twitter for comment on the matter. If and when the response comes, the story will be updated accordingly.

Under Twitter ban evasion policy Twitter told Asif, “You may not circumvent a Twitter suspension, enforcement action, or anti-spam challenge. This includes any behavior intended to evade any Twitter remediation, such as creating a new account or repurposing an already-existing account.”

“It is bizarre,” Asif said. “I don’t understand what kind of ban I tried to evade?”

Asif is always prompt in putting out cases of hate crimes particularly those perpetrated by Hindutva extremists on twitter. This has earned him a huge follower base and a reputation among activist and journalist circles covering such stories.

He has been a victim of coordinated and targeted attacks in the form of abuse, reporting his tweets en-masse and trolling by Hindu right-wing accounts for his work. He has also been served notices by Twitter on Indian government requests for his tweets and his reach has been curtailed for months. His account was suspended in January 2020 as well but the action was reversed in hours only.

Moreover, Asif was also among around 250 accounts including prominent journalists and activists that were withheld for several hours by Twitter on government orders on January 26 when farmers’ tractor rally stormed the historic Red Fort. The action triggered a massive outrage forcing Twitter to restore accounts within hours.

The result was a face-off between the Modi government and Twitter as the latter showed a defiance to the government orders citing that the accounts did not violate Indian law. The controversy has refused to die down as the government came up with new IT Rules to regulate social media companies and digital news outlets.

Last week as the company was named in an FIR over videos of assault on an elderly Muslim in Ghaziabad, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Electronics & Information Technology Minister, accused it of not complying with the new rules as he said that the company has chosen the path of “deliberate defiance”. Twitter was then ordered by the government to block at least 50 tweets showing videos of the assault.

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