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Facebook, Twitter Remove Nearly 100 Posts Critical of COVID-19 Response in India After Government Order

Government said it is necessary to take action against those users who are “misusing” social media during this crisis, as per sources

Twitter and other social media platforms have removed around 100 posts and URLs after the government requested that they remove content that was critical of the handling of the current medical crisis or spreading fake news around the pandemic.

Twitter said it has informed the impacted account holders of its activity taken because of a legal request from the Indian government, while Facebook didn’t remark on the issue. Sources said the companies have complied with the order. However, it wasn’t immediately known what the removed posts were.

Government sources said the IT Ministry, on the proposal of the Ministry of Home Affairs, asked the social media platforms to remove the posts and URLs to “prevent obstructions in the fight against the pandemic” and disruption of public order due to the said posts.

They added that the request was given considering the abuse of social media platform by specific users to spread fake or misleading information and create panic about the pandemic in the society “by using unrelated, old and out of the context images or visuals, communally sensitive posts and misinformation about COVID-19 protocols”.

In spite of the fact that reports suggested that the posts critical of government handling of the medical crisis were asked to be removed, sources said the government is open to criticism and suggestions in the collective fight against COVID-19.

In any case, they said it is important to make a move against those users who are “misusing” social media during this grave humanitarian crisis for unethical purposes.

Twitter removed or restricted access to more than 50 posts in the past one month at the behest of the government, including tweets that criticised its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Other posts removed showed pictures and videos of a recent Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh.

India is enrolling a record number of COVID cases day by day. The quantity of new COVID contaminations contacted 3,49,691 cases and 2,767 fatalities, as per the Union Health Ministry information refreshed on Sunday at 8 am.

A Twitter representative said when it gets a valid legal request, it reviews it under both 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. The legal requests that we receive are detailed in the bi-annual Twitter Transparency Report, and requests to withhold content are published on Lumen,” the spokesperson said.

Reports referring to Lumen data set (an independent research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content) proposed that in excess of 50 posts – including those by a Member of Parliament, MLA and producers – were eliminated by Twitter on government demand.

The microblogging stage underlined that it is focused on the standards of receptiveness and transparency, and that it handles misinformation based on the highest potential for harm.