- The government has said that it has asked only fake posts to be removed.
- The previous Twitter takedown was not meant for posts critical of the government.
- The government has ordered Twitter, Facebook, YouTube to take down over 100 posts and URLs.
Last week, the Indian government ordered Twitter to remove posts that were critical of its handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Twitter hid as many as 50 tweets from public viewing in India, informing users about the action that was taken to comply with India's IT Act, on the government's directive. A large chunk of these posts criticised how the Modi government is tackling the outbreak. The IT Ministry has now clarified that it ordered the takedown of only those posts that were found spreading misinformation around Covid-19.
In a fresh order, the government has asked Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to remove more than 100 posts and URLs that the government has found are spreading "fake or misleading information". And much like the previous order, the tech companies have complied with the order. However, the IT Ministry has said that it is demanding the takedown of only those posts that are spreading false information to "create panic" around the pandemic, not the ones that criticise the government for its handling of the Covid-19 situation.
"This decision has been taken to prevent obstructions in the fight against the pandemic and escalation of public order due to these posts," an official was quoted as saying in a Times of India report. The official added that the action against these posts did not have the intention to curb the voices that are critical of the government but to "block inflammatory content that used morphed or doctored images and statements." There is some substance to this statement. Folks at The Wire found some posts that Twitter had to hide to comply with the government's previous order were actually misleading.
The posts Twitter removed previously included those from Member of Parliament Revanth Reddy, West Bengal Minister Moloy Ghatak, actor Vineet Kumar Singh, and filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das. A major portion of these tweets talked about the acute shortage of medical oxygen, hospital beds, and proper medicines at a time when India is seeing what could be the worst wave of the Covid-19 outbreak. The country is seeing a staggering surge of over 3 lakh Covid-19 positive cases on a daily basis, while the deaths are also rising sharply.
"The government welcomes criticism, 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," one of the sources told TOI.
Twitter previously responded to the government's order, saying, "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."
Facebook and YouTube have not responded to the government's request yet.