Twitter is withholding some messages, some from lawmakers, after the Indian government issued an emergency order.
The Indian government has asked social media platform Twitter to delete dozens of tweets, including some from local lawmakers, which criticized India’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, as COVID-19 cases reached again a world record.
Twitter withheld some of the tweets after the Indian government’s legal request, a company spokesperson told Reuters news agency on Saturday.
The government has issued an emergency order to censor the tweets, Twitter revealed on the Lumen database, a Harvard University project.
In the government’s legal request, dated April 23 and leaked on Lumen, 21 tweets were mentioned.
Among them were tweets from a lawmaker named Revnath Reddy, a West Bengal state minister named Moloy Ghatak, and a filmmaker named Avinash Das.
The law cited in the government’s request was the Information Technology Act 2000.
While it is not clear which section of the law was relied on in this case, New Delhi generally uses a clause that authorizes it to order the blocking of public access to information for the purpose of protecting “The sovereignty and integrity of India” and to maintain public order, among others.
“When we receive a valid legal request, we will review it in accordance with both Twitter rules and local law,” the Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“If the content violates Twitter’s rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is found to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but without breaking Twitter rules, we can deny access to content in India only, ”she said.
The spokesperson confirmed that Twitter had informed account holders directly of the retention of their content and let them know that it had received a legal order regarding their tweets.
India’s IT ministry told AFP news agency it had asked Twitter to remove 100 posts, adding that there was “misuse of social media platforms by some users to disseminate information. false or misleading and spread panic in the face of the COVID-19 situation in India ”.
The development was reported earlier by tech news website TechCrunch, which said Twitter was not the only platform affected by the order.
India is in the throes of a second unleashed wave of the pandemic, reaching a rate of one COVID-19 death in just under every four minutes in New Delhi as the capital’s underfunded health system s ‘collapses.
There is growing criticism that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal government and state authorities were not sufficiently prepared to deal with the crisis.
Health experts said India had become complacent months earlier, when new cases were running at around 10,000 a day and appeared to be under control.
Authorities lifted restrictions, allowing the resumption of large rallies, including major festivals and political rallies for local elections.
India’s healthcare system has struggled to cope with the huge surge, with families of patients asking for help on social media as the country faces severe drug and oxygen shortages.
India on Sunday recorded 349,691 new cases and 2,767 deaths in the past 24 hours – the highest since the start of the pandemic.