Freedom of speech and expression lost its place on Twitter for a spell this week. So did sarcasm and humour. dna cartoonist Manjul, known for his tongue-in-cheek cartoons that lampooned the high and mighty, was shocked to see his tweets mysteriously disappear from his timeline. What in tweet was happening, he asked himself.
Manjul says his cartoons featuring Union minister Kapil Sibal and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi were deleted by Twitter within minutes of him tweeting them, and that too without his consent.
With more than 6000 followers on Twitter alone, Manjul is known for his political cartoons. His cartoon on Kapil Sibal, was published a year ago when the Lokpal Bill was in the drafting phase, and there was a huge hue and cry on whether or not India needed a Lokpal.
“When Rahul Gandhi and Kapil Sibal told the media on Saturday that they were in favour of the Lokpal Bill, I thought it would be apt to tweet this year-old cartoon that throws light on Kapil Sibal’s not so supportive stand on Lokpal then,” says Manjul, claiming that another of his cartoons, posted on Sunday night, that took a jibe at Rahul Gandhi and his statement on the Lokpal Bill, was also deleted forthwith.
“I was shocked and hurt when I found my tweets deleted. When I contacted Twitter they did not give me any response. If it was a technical glitch then a reply with a clarification would have been the easiest thing to do,” says Manjul.
Manjul alleges that his cartoon on Rahul Gandhi was deleted twice. “The first tweet with Rahul Gandhi’s cartoon got almost 35 retweets before it disappeared. I posted it again thinking it was a technical glitch, but that too was removed. It was confounding.”
However, both the tweets were restored by Monday evening.
But Twitter did not respond to Manjul’s tweets that questioned the deletions. “If something like this happens on a social media platform just months before a major election, and especially when it happens on Twitter, it is very scary. My cartoons were not indecent or abusive. They were just sarcastic,” he said.
The latest transparency report released by Twitter states that, between January and June 2013, Twitter withheld a total of three tweets at the request made by India, of which one request was made by the government/ government agency/police and the other by a court order.
Twitter has been releasing this report regularly since July 2012, giving useful insights into data removal requests and information requests made by different countries.