The Indian government has reportedly ordered Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to censor dozens of posts criticizing the administration’s response to the pandemic, arguing they were misleading or could hamper emergency response efforts. The crackdown comes amid an unprecedented surge in covid-19 cases and deaths in India as a second wave of coronavirus hits the country with a force some health officials have compared to a “tsunami.”
Following reports from TechCrunch and Indian news site MediaNama, Indian officials have confirmed with the New York Times Sunday that the government ordered Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to remove around 100 posts, some of which included criticism from politicians and calls on the Indian Prime Minister to resign. The Indian government argued that these posts used images taken out of context and could potentially incite panic or interfere with its response to the pandemic, according to the Times.
Twitter deleted several tweets in response to a legal request from the Indian government, a company spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo on Sunday. Two of those legal demands were posted on Lumen, a Harvard University project that tracks government withdrawal notices around the world. the first, dated April 22, lists 32 tweets, while the second, dated April 23, lists 21 tweets, both of which invoke the 2000 Information Technology Act without going into detail. Among the censored accounts are a West Bengal Minister of State, a sitting member of the Indian Parliament and several members of the Indian film industry.
“When we receive a valid legal request, we look at it under both Twitter rules and local law,” a Twitter spokesperson told Gizmodo 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 may deny access to content in India only. ”
The spokesperson added that Twitter had notified the affected accounts to let them know it was withholding their content in response to a legal request from the Indian government.
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Facebook, which also owns Instagram, did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll be sure to update this blog when they do.
Covid-19 cases have skyrocketed across India in recent weeks. India reported 349,691 new cases on Saturday, making it the fourth day in a row that the country has set a world record for daily infections during the pandemic, CNN Reports. With 2,767 deaths reported in the past 24 hours, India also broke its record for its highest daily death toll of nine consecutive days. More than 1 million new cases have been recorded in the past three days, bringing the nation’s total to nearly 17 million, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins.