Based on the recommendations from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has directed Twitter to remove 100 posts from its website on Sunday. Government officials state that to “prevent obstructions” in the fight against the pandemic and the escalation of crimes against public order such order has been passed.
On Meity’s orders, Twitter deleted about 50 tweets on Saturday. The tweets were related to criticism of the Central Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Medianama, these included tweets from Congress MP Revanth Reddy, West Bengal minister Moloy Ghatak, actor Vineet Kumar Singh, and two filmmakers, Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das.
Criticizing this move of the government, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera served a legal notice on Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad and Twitter India. Twitter has also blocked his tweet on Kumbh Mela and Tablighi Jamaat. The Internet Freedom Foundation also tweeted that India would not be “silenced and censored.”
As per MeitY, only those articles that are spreading false information to “create panic” around the pandemic should be taken down, not those that criticize the government’s handling of the Covid-19 situation.
“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”
Elaborating further, Officials told ET that, false or misleading information was spreading and generating panic about the situation in India. Some users shared “unrelated, outdated, and out of context” photos or visuals, communally sensitive messages, and misleading information about the Covid-19 protocols. To curb this issue, the government ordered Twitter to take down 100 posts.
Response From Twitter
According to a Twitter spokesperson, Twitter reviews a legitimate legal request to remove content under both Twitter’s rules and local law. If the content is in violation of its Terms of Service, Twitter remove such posts. It may withhold access to the content in India only if it is determined to be illegal in a specific jurisdiction but not in violation of the Twitter Rules.
The annual Twitter Transparency Report details the legal requests that Twitter receives. Lumen Database (an independent research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content) records the content removal requests.
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