When the Indian coronavirus pandemic burns out of control, the country’s government is cracking down – on social media. On Thursday, the Indian government ordered Twitter to block more than 50 tweets criticizing how it dealt with the pandemic. Twitter responded by preventing residents in the country from seeing the posts of people including a state minister, an opposition member of the Indian Parliament, filmmakers, an actor, two journalists and several ordinary people.
On Saturday, Twitter posted details about the order to the Lumen database, a Harvard University project that keeps track of government elimination notices around the world. The news was first reported from the Indian technology policy website Medianama.
“When we receive a valid legal request, we review it both on Twitter Terms and in local law. If the content violates Twitter rules, the content will be removed from the service, “a Twitter spokesman told BuzzFeed News.” If it is decided to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction but not in violation of the Twitter rules, we can prevents access to content only in India. ”The company said it has notified people that its tweets have been restricted in India ahead of time, saying the company is responding to an Indian government order.
India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has not responded to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
One of the restrictions tweets belongs to Moloy Ghatak, minister of the All India Trinamool Congress Party of West Bengal state, where Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently detained massive electoral demonstrations even as hundreds of thousands of Indians tested positive for COVID-19 every day.
Ghatak’s tweet criticized Modi for the mismanagement of the pandemic.
The government has also restricted dozens of tweets criticizing Modi or sharing photos of India crematorium and flooded hospitals, in addition to a Tweet by the American Indian Muslim Council, an organization advocating for American Indian Muslims based in Washington, DC. That group shared one Vice story about the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage attended by hundreds of thousands of Indians earlier this month, who returned in a superspreader event.
“While hundreds of thousands of Covid patients are literally anxious to breathe, the government’s anger at Twitter’s pressure to block critical tweets from its crisis management shows that the administration’s moral compass continues to point in a direction that serves without shame, ”IAMC said in a statement.
BuzzFeed News came to Ghatak for comment.
Earlier this year, cases of coronavirus in India fell, and most of the country resumed normal life. In early March, the Indian health minister he said that the country was in the “end” of the pandemic. But the country is now on the verge of a second wave caused by a new variant of viruses, religious gatherings, and electoral demonstrations. India currently has the highest number of skin infections in the world, and its health care system has collapsed. Medical oxygen is scarce, ventilators are hard to find, and vaccines are lacking. According to data from Johns Hopkins, India had 346,786 new cases on Friday and 2,624 deaths.
Despite the numbers, Modi has he continued holds massive election rallies.
This is not the first time that Twitter has respected the Indian government’s order to censor tweets. In February, the company blocked more than 250 accounts in India criticized the management of protests by the government by hundreds of thousands of farmers against the new agricultural laws. The company subsequently hit one note challenge, unlocking accounts belonging to journalists, activists and politicians, despite prison threats by the Indian government.