Worked Hard to Track Hate Crimes: Asif on Account Being Suspended

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Mohd Asif Khan

“I had worked hard to document all those cases, now that Twitter has suspended my account, I have lost everything.”

Mohammad Asif Khan

“Has your account been suspended?”

A friend messaged me on WhatsApp on 25 June around 9:00 am. I swiftly opened my Twitter application and found that my account was indeed suspended, without any explanation. I did not receive an e-mail intimating me of a cause. I was shocked and confused while I filed an appeal with Twitter, while wondering what wrong I had done to invite a suspension to my account.

In an hour and a half, they responded to my appeal.

They said the grounds for suspending my account was that I had violated rules against ‘ban evasion’. It’s bizarre that they would say that as how can I evade a Twitter ban when I was not banned in the first place? I still do not fully grasp the logic behind this ground.

How my Journey of documenting hate crimes began

I created my Twitter account in 2011 and I have been frequently using Twitter since 2015-16. This was the time when cases of mob lynching and hate crimes against Muslims were on a rampant rise across India.

What bothered me is how blatantly mainstream Indian media was ignoring these crimes and not giving them any coverage whatsoever.

This is when I began noticing that even social media was not being used to consistently talk about cases of mob lynching and hate crimes. So I decided to change that. This is when my journey to try to document cases of mob lynching, hate crimes, and the dangerous rise of Islamophobia in India began.

I had documented over 400 cases of mob violence before suspension

I started documenting hate crimes in 2017, and over the last four years, I have documented over 400 cases of mob violence and hate crimes against Muslims.

Over time I realised that Twitter is a very useful platform to highlight such issues. It helped me to single-handedly draw the attention of the international and national media toward the persecution of Indian Muslims across the subcontinent.

Over time I also developed credibility with people.

Due to my efforts, when a case of hate crime would occur people would be fast to tag me on Twitter, Facebook and send me videos, details, and pictures on my mail.

I always try my best to verify the facts before posting a tweet, which is why I end up contacting a network of reliable journalists and fact-checkers before posting anything. When that does not work I watch the video, again and again, to spot the boards in the background, the vehicle numbers, and other identifiers. This affects my mental peace as I end up having to inspect everything in great detail. All this also takes up time, I have my own personal business that I have to handle. However, I have never felt it to be a tedious task.

When I get a confirmation of the incident from the ground, then I tweet about the incident to amplify it. This is how journalists and media organisations notice it and report on the issue. Even then the reporting by mainstream media has continued to be grossly inadequate.

But I would find some solace in knowing that my Twitter timeline is rich in information related to hate crimes against Muslims and other marginalised sections of India.

I had worked hard to document all those cases, now that Twitter has suspended my account, I feel like I have lost everything.

Used to being targeted, 8 legal notices in 6 months

This is not the first time I am being targeted on Twitter for my activism. My account was suspended in January 2020 as well, but it was restored within hours after many people expressed their outrage in my support.

In February 2021, at the peak of the farmers’ protest, my account was withheld in India under the directions of the PM Modi-led central govt along with several other organisations and personalities.

There are many trolls who abuse me everyday and mass report my tweets. Even government and law enforcement agencies report my tweets which are related to hate crimes or mob lynching.

I have now received eight legal notices in the past six months where govt agencies reported my tweets for violating Indian laws; although neither the government nor Twitter has offered me any clarity regarding the laws I have been accused of violating.

This time they have attached five tweets of mine and said that the information in it is violative of the Information Technology Act 2020.

Mohammed Asif Khan is an activist who documents hate crimes against minorties in India

(This piece first appeared in The Quint)

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