India currently is struggling to battle the second wave COVID-19 crisis as the rise in cases is overburdening the current health care infrastructures. While there is a widespread shortage of basic resources including hospital beds, ventilators, and availability of oxygen, the Indian government is focused on censoring and controlling the spread of information over Twitter that not only provided useful information but also highlighted the crippling situation of India in this pandemic.
When Did This Happen?
Twitter and other social media platforms have been extensively used by individuals to amplify COVID-19 related resources and contacts. They are also giving an insight into how terrible the situation is and hold officials accountable or attempt to raise global awareness about the devastating scale of the outbreak, as the New Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation noted.
Thus, as disclosed by the Lumen Database, an online transparency project run by Harvard University the Modi government made a request on April 23rd under Section 69 (A), of the Information Technology Act, which has drawn criticism as being a tool for censorship.
The Indian government’s decision to remove critical social media posts, which was first reported by Indian outlet Medianama, has inspired a new wave of criticism and will probably raise questions about when American social media platforms should comply with takedown requests from foreign governments.
India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology as a way of justifying this censorship told CNN that it had asked social media platforms to remove posts that were creating “panic” by “using unrelated, old and out of the context images or visuals.”
As a result, Twitter on Saturday took down at least 52 tweets in India that criticized how the Indian government has taken responsibility and tackled the pandemic.
"When we receive a valid legal request, we review 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, we may withhold access to the content in India only. In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they’re aware that we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.
What Tweets Were Blocked Due To The Order By The Indian Government?
The censored tweet was by people from different walks including opposition politicians, journalists, and filmmakers. Some of them are by parliamentarian Revanth Reddy from the opposition Congress party, West Bengal state minister Moloy Ghatak, and filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das.
One of the blocked posts, by an opposition party leader, said that people in India would “never forgive” Prime Minister Narendra Modi “for underplaying the corona situation in the country and letting so many people die due to mismanagement.”
A Reuters photographer also posted images of grieving mourners, packed hospitals, and a busy cremation site. Additional censored posts displayed the shortages of coronavirus tests, showed patients being treated in makeshift tents, or demanded Modi’s resignation as his government failed the healthcare system Other tweets criticized the decision to hold election rallies and the Hindu gathering, Kumbh Mela, as COVID cases surged high across the nation.
A tweet by parliamentarian Revanth Reddy, which is blocked in India, carried the hashtag: #ModiMadeDisaster
How Have Citizens Reacted After Twitter Took Down Tweets?
Several individuals on social media condemned the Modi government for prioritizing "censorship" instead of effectively dealing with the "humanitarian disaster" India is experiencing.