Indian government asks social media giants to censor posts around COVID-19

Social media platform Twitter was asked by the Indian government to remove multiple tweets by netizens and politicians with growing criticism emerging on how the government has handled the rise in cases of COVID-19.  According to reports seen by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE on Lumen, Twitter revealed that the government made an emergency order to remove certain tweets. 

According to WSJ, the Indian government has also ordered Facebook and Instagram to also block social posts criticising the handling of the COVID-19 surge. The report added that, while Twitter blocked some of the posts in India, it remained visible to the rest of the world. According to India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology statement to WSJ, this was done to curb the misuse of social media and was an attempt to  tackle what it deems coronavirus-related misinformation and panic

According to an article on CNA, a Twitter spokesperson explained that Twitter reviews “valid legal request” under the “Twitter Rules and local law” and if the "content violates Twitter's rules, the content will be removed from the service". "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," she added. 

Twitter's spokesperson told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that when it receives a valid legal request, it reviews it under both the Twitter Rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter’s Rules, the content will be removed from the service. If it is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction, but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, the company may withhold access to the content in India only.

"In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they are aware that we have received a legal order pertaining to the account. We notify the user(s) by sending a message to the email address associated with the account(s), if available. Read more about our Legal request FAQs. The legal requests that we receive are detailed in the bianual Twitter Transparency Report, and requests to withhold content are published on Lumen," the spokesperson added.

Some of the tweets that came under the scrutiny of the Indian government include: 

India has made headlines globally following the spike in COVID-19  cases after the government initially managed to bring cases under control from the first wave last year. The number of daily cases has been on a continuous incline for the last week. On Monday, India reported over 352,000 new cases. With oxygen supplies at critically low levels in India, netizens, doctors and journalists have taken to Twitter and other social channels to ask the world for help. Hashtags such as #CovidSOS and #COVIDEmergency2021 are trending. Many are also criticising the country's handling of the pandemic. 

Countries around the world have come to the aid of India with Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek issuing a statement on Sunday stating that medical equipment, including oxygen-related supplies, are being sent from Singapore as India faces a surge in COVID-19 cases. Temasek also said that more supplies and oxygen concentrators and ventilators will also be sent to help the communities in “urgent need”. Similarly, the UK too is sending 600 pieces of medical equipment to India, reported CNN.

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