Does Twitter have an anti-Pakistan bias?

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Microblogging site, Twitter recently suspended a large number of user accounts from Pakistan, perhaps owing to violation of its community standards. However, the government of Pakistan suspects ulterior motives behind the move.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) last week informed that Twitter had suspended  the accounts of a number of Twitter users without any warning and on unsubstantiated grounds. It said PTA considered action of Twitter administration against the principles of freedom of speech.

It also urged Twitter users to report their suspended accounts so that the matter could be raised with Twitter.

Following the announcement, the regulator received 396 complaints, which, it said, were taken up with the micro-blogging site. However, Twitter restored only 66 accounts while 330 still remain suspended.

This is not the first time Pakistani user accounts have been suspended. In August 2019, hundreds of Twitter accounts from Pakistan, including some official accounts, were suspended, allegedly over their anti-India comments following India’s annexation of Kashmir. This suspension triggered mass protest with the hashtag #StopSuspendingPakistanis trending in the country. The Pakistani authorities took up the matter with Twitter administration, where both reached a consensus.

Although the exact number of accounts blocked by twitter are unknown but social media users speculated that they could even be in hundreds or even thousands.The mass suspension triggered similar speculations and assumptions in the digital world, as people tried to connect dots.

Some social media activists pointed to the fact that some of the accounts that were involved in running hate campaigns against journalists and rights activists were also suspended.

While some believed the action had followed after Pakistan’s top English daily, Dawn published an elaborate investigative report about the modus operandi of Pakistan’s ‘Hashtag Mills’ that allegedly run orchestrated campaigns on social media.

The report commissioned one of the leading hashtag merchants, Farhan Virk to showcase how the intricate networks of Twitter accounts jointly operated to magnify different campaigns on the microblogging site.

Farhan Virk’s account has also been suspended by Twitter since then.

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