2021-04-26 12:25:38 Twitter Is Blocking Tweets That Criticize The Indian Government
Twitter Is Blocking Tweets That Criticize The Indian Government
As the coronavirus pandemic in India spirals out of control, the government is cracking down — on social media. On Thursday, India’s government ordered Twitter to block more than 50 tweets criticizing the country’s response to the pandemic. Twitter complied, preventing Indian residents from viewing posts by a state minister, an opposition member of the Indian Parliament, filmmakers, an actor, two journalists, and a number of ordinary people.
On Saturday, Twitter shared information about the order with the Lumen database, a Harvard University project that tracks government takedown notices around the world. Medianama, an Indian technology policy website, broke the news first.
“When we receive a valid legal request, we investigate it in accordance with both the Twitter Rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter’s Rules, it will be removed from the service, according to a Twitter spokesperson. “If it is determined to be illegal in a specific jurisdiction but not in violation of the Twitter Rules, we may restrict access to the content only in India.” The company stated that it informed those whose tweets were restricted in India ahead of time, explaining that the company was responding to an order from the Indian government.
BuzzFeed News reached out to India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology for comment, but it did not receive a response.
One of the restricted tweets is from Moloy Ghatak, an All India Trinamool Congress Party minister from West Bengal, where Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently held massive election rallies despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Indians tested positive for COVID-19 on a daily basis.
In his tweet, Ghatak chastised Modi for mismanaging the pandemic.
In addition, the government blocked dozens of tweets that criticized Modi or shared images of India’s overflowing crematoriums and hospitals, as well as a tweet from the Indian American Muslim Council, a Washington, DC–based advocacy organization for Indian American Muslims. This group shared a Vice story about the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage attended by hundreds of thousands of Indians earlier this month that became a superspreader event.
“While hundreds of thousands of Covid patients are literally gasping for breath, the government’s alacrity in pressuring Twitter to block tweets critical of its handling of the crisis shows the administration’s moral compass continues to point in a direction that is shamelessly self-serving,” the IAMC said in a statement.
Ghatak has been contacted for comment by BuzzFeed News.
Earlier this year, coronavirus cases in India fell precipitously, and most of the country returned to normalcy. India’s health minister stated at the beginning of March that the country was in the “endgame” of the pandemic. However, the country is now in the grip of a second wave, triggered by a new virus variant, religious gatherings, and election rallies. India currently has the highest daily infection rate in the world, and its healthcare system is in disarray. Medical oxygen is in short supply, as are ventilators, and vaccines are running low. According to data from Johns Hopkins, India had 346,786 new cases and 2,624 deaths on Friday.
Regardless of the numbers, Modi has continued to hold massive election rallies.
This isn’t the first time Twitter has complied with Indian government requests to censor tweets. In February, the company blocked over 250 accounts in India that criticized the government’s handling of hundreds of thousands of farmers’ protests against new agricultural laws. Following that, despite jail threats from the Indian government, the company struck a defiant tone, unblocking accounts belonging to journalists, activists, and politicians.