The Central government on Saturday asked Twitter and other social media platforms to take down dozens of tweets, posts and URLs which “spread fake or misleading information and created panic” about the Covid-19 situation in India.
According to government sources, certain users posted unrelated, old and out of context images or visuals, communally sensitive posts and misinformation about Covid-19 protocols. "The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the recommendation of Ministry of Home Affairs asked social media platforms to remove around 100 posts or URLs. This decision was taken to prevent obstructions in fight against the pandemic and escalation of public order due to these posts," said the sources.
"At a time when the entire country is putting up a brave and honest effort to fight against Covid-19 pandemic, certain people are misusing social media to create panic in the society. Government welcomes criticisms, genuine requests for help as well as suggestions in the collective fight against Covid-19, but it is necessary to take action against those users who are misusing social media during this grave humanitarian crisis for unethical purposes," the government sources added.
Twitter withheld some of the tweets after a legal request by the government, a company spokeswoman told Reuters. The government made an emergency order to censor the tweets, Twitter disclosed on Lumen database, a Harvard University project.
The law cited in the government’s request was the Information Technology Act, 2000. “When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law,” the Twitter spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“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 said.
The spokeswoman confirmed that Twitter had notified account holders directly about withholding their content and let them know that it received a legal order pertaining to their tweets.
India is in the grip of a rampaging second wave of the pandemic, with the number of cases across the country of around 1.3 billion people rising by 349,691, the Health Ministry said on Sunday. Covid-19 deaths rose by 2,767 on Sunday.