For nearly two months, tweets from far-right Hindu nationalists in India about dozens of young interfaith couples – usually Muslim men marrying Hindu women – circulated on Twitter.
“This is going to be a long thread,” said one of the accounts involved in the doxing, following it with 17 more tweets. Each tweet contained images of government documents, including names, ages, occupations, addresses and photographs of Hindu-Muslim couples in India. “Look at these photos,” another tweet from the same account said. “Who makes these couples get together? It can’t be that they ‘fall in love’. “
As outrage mounted in India on Monday, Twitter finally deleted some of the biggest threads, even though people had been reporting them for weeks.
But more than a half-dozen other tweets about interfaith couples remained after the initial takedowns. One of them included a tweet from a politician in India’s ruling party, Bharatiya Janata, who tweeted the address of an Indian actor who reportedly converted to Islam. Twitter deleted these messages after BuzzFeed News interviewed them.
None of the accounts whose tweets were deleted have been suspended.
A Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “Posting someone’s private information without their consent is a direct violation of Twitter’s rules and you cannot engage in targeted harassment of someone, nor incite other people to do it.
In India, one of Twitter’s fastest growing markets, the controversial The special marriage law requires interfaith couples to announce their intention to marry to the government and wait 30 days for approval, during which the couple’s application is submitted for public review to the marriage registration service. The law is currently being challenged in the Indian Supreme Court, with a petitioner call him “Unfair, illegal and unconstitutional.”
But despite the controversies, last year the state of Kerala went further: it uploaded all the applications to its marriage registration website, where anyone could download them.
This decision swept away hundreds of interfaith marriage proposals on social media. Hindu nationalists claimed the nominations were proof of “amorous jihad,” an unfounded far-right conspiracy theory according to which accused Muslim men marrying Hindu women to distract them from their faith, slowly transforming India from a predominantly Hindu country into an Islamic nation. These conspiracy theories fueled violence at the same time as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tapped into Hindu nationalism to fuel his rise to power.
Although Facebook has been critical for letting hate speech related to “jihad love” flourish on its platform in the past, the company has removed these specific cases of doxing whenever they were reported, two told BuzzFeed News couples whose applications had been published on the platform. But the documents, full of personal and identifying information, floated freely on Twitter for months.
Some of those tweets contained thousands of retweets and likes and tagged prominent members of India’s far right, including Kapil Mishra, a BJP politician whose speech at a February rally was uploaded to Facebook and is believed triggering religious violence that killed more than 50 people in Delhi state – most of them Muslims.
“The Hindu lineages are exterminated; mass conversations going on, ”read a tweet from July that had nearly 3,000 retweets.
“I will publish each [application] I have, ”read another tweet with nearly 500 retweets.
“72 couples in total. It’s a [campaign] to erase the Hindus ”, another read, with the hashtag #Hindus_Under_Attack.
“We apply our policies in a way that is fair and impartial for everyone,” Twitter said. “Our product and our policies are never developed or implemented on the basis of political ideology. If Twitter users see something that violates Twitter’s rules, the most important thing to do is report it, by clicking the drop-down arrow at the top of the Tweet and selecting Report Tweet. “
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Critics both inside and outside of California-based tech companies say the platforms have failed to tackle the global damage. As a recently fired Facebook employee complained in an internal memo, “We focus on damage and priority regions like US and Western Europe. “
“Love of Jihad is not a global campaign, but it is high time for these Western companies to understand the real impact of something like this outside their geographic areas,” said Athira Sujatha Radhakrishnan, a professional policy in Bangalore, to BuzzFeed News.
Last year Radhakrishnan, who is Hindu, and her husband, who is Muslim, were sentenced. Their interfaith marriage proposal was one of 150 apps downloaded by Hindu nationalists from the Kerala government website. Their app was not posted on Twitter, but it still made its way through WhatsApp groups before reaching her mother through a neighbor, along with a message to “stop jihad. lover”.
Radhakrishnan filed a police complaint and earlier this year wrote a Facebook post tagging the minister in charge of marriage registration. In July, the ministry returned her decision to upload Interfaith Marriage Proposals to her website.
Radhakrishnan said she plans to file her own petition to the Supreme Court later this week, focusing on the law’s potential to violate privacy.
Despite the resignations, distrust of Twitter persists.
“If this happened in America with interracial couples being doxed, there would be swift action I’m sure,” a Twitter user wrote Tuesday. “But who cares about a bunch of Indians?” It’s not like their deaths make the international press, I mean people are dying here in droves every day, Amirite?