Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

By Euan Rocha and Aditya Kalra
FILE PHOTO: The Twitter logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Euan Rocha and Aditya Kalra

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - One of India's best-known women journalists, Barkha Dutt, launched a scathing attack on Twitter Inc on Tuesday for temporarily locking her account after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her.

Dutt said some people had posted and circulated her phone number on Twitter, enabling the harassment, which she said included threats of rape and images of genitalia being sent to her phone.

Dutt tweeted some of the threats and images on Monday, and she included phone numbers and names of the men who allegedly threatened her, after which her account was suspended.

She posted her complaint against Twitter in a tweet on Tuesday, after her account was re-activated.

"I would like to place on record my absolute horror and disgust at Twitter's encouragement of sexual abuse and gender inequality," said Dutt, a former managing editor at news channel NDTV and a regular columnist with the Washington Post.

Dutt accused Twitter of being "vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence".

Twitter said it did not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons and it referred to its rules that users may not publish or post other people's private information without their express authorization and permission.

"If we identify a Tweet that violates the Twitter Rules, there are a range of enforcement options we may pursue. These include requiring a user to delete a Tweet, and/or being temporarily locked out of their account before they can Tweet again," a spokeswoman for Twitter said in an email.

The social media platform is already facing scrutiny in India.

Its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has been called to appear before a parliamentary panel this month to discuss initiatives being taken to safeguard citizen's rights on social media and online news platforms..

The hearing comes soon after the conservative Youth for Social Media Democracy group accused Twitter of left-wing bias and protested outside its office in New Delhi this month.

Dorsey did not appear at a hearing earlier this month.

A person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday the parliamentary panel had written an email to Dorsey, reiterating its demand that he appear at a Feb. 25 hearing.

Twitter declined to comment on whether Dorsey would attend.

Social media giants in India are being put under greater scrutiny ahead of a general election due before May, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party are seeking re-election.

Several social media companies are overhauling policies to curb misinformation ahead of the vote.

(Reporting by Euan Rocha and Aditya Kalra; Editing by Robert Birsel)