There was outrage in India after the government ordered the social media platform Twitter to remove posts that criticised the role of the government in the manner in which it had handled the massive second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some material had been blocked by the company from being viewed in India, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed to the media.
The second wave of the pandemic has been particularly severe in India and the many of the hospitals overwhelmed by cases were facing acute shortage of oxygen.
The government was accused of “finding it easier to take down tweets than ensure oxygen supplies” by one Twitter user.
As of Monday, a total of 352,991 new infectionsand2,812 deaths were reported in India which was the highest for a single day so far.
On Lumen, a database that keeps track of global government orders around online content, Twitter revealed that an emergency order to censor the tweets was made by the Indian government.
While Twitter did not mention anything specific about the type of content it had taken down. Reports suggested that the tweets included one from a politician in West Bengal in which the Indian holding Prime Minister Narendra Modi was held directly responsible for the Covid-19 deaths. Another tweet was made by an actor in which Modi was criticised for holding political rallies even while the virus infections were rising in the country and in the province where those rallies were held.
Twitter reviewed content when it received a “valid legal request” – which in this case was form the Indian government which cited objections according to clauses in the Information Technology Act 2000, Twitter said.
“If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may withhold access to the content in India only,” the platform said.
The content in question was misleading or could spark panic, said reports quoting a government official.
“We cannot allow fake news that harms the country,” BJP national spokesperson Gopal Agarwal told the BBC. He went on to explain that fake news was worsening the crisis and pointed that the content on social media had to be within the rule of law.
It was “necessary to take action against those who are misusing social media… for unethical purposes”, an official of the Minister of Electronics and IT had earlier told The Hindu newspaper.
However the government was criticised by users on social media for focusing on “censorship” even while a “humanitarian disaster” was being faced by the country. Many of the users also criticised Twitter for complying with the order and accused the social media platform of being “complicit”.
There was overwhelming number of tweets form users about people falling sick, needing oxygen and hospital beds. Kin the past, Twitter has been criticised for bowing down to pressure tactics form the Indian government.
(Adapted from BBC.com)