India asks TikTok, Facebook to remove viral coronavirus misinformation

India asks Facebook and TikTok to remove users found to be spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

The move follows a report by Delhi-based digital analytics firm Voyager Infosec which identified a pattern of targeted disinformation in many social media videos that appeared to be aimed at Muslims, with some using religious beliefs to justifying defiance of health advisories over the virus.

In videos a TikTok user says he is not scared of the coronavirus because, as a Muslim, he is a follower of the Prophet Mohammed and fears only Allah.

In another, a young man throws away a face mask – of the kind being commonly used during the coronavirus outbreak – to put on a Muslim skull cap, and makes a gesture of praying.

Concerns about such content forced India’s IT ministry to write to TikTok and Facebook on April 5.

The Reuters reported, that the government asked companies to remove users who are spreading misinformation and “preserve” their details for sharing with law enforcement when requested.

The government says that such messages, “have the potential for creating panic and effectively weakens the all-out effort being made or containing the coronavirus.”

In a statement, TikTok said it was “actively working with the government to support” their efforts to fight misinformation, while proactively working towards elevating credible information related to COVID-19 on its platform.

The coronavirus crisis has been accompanied by what the World Health Organization has called an “infodemic” of misinformation. Globally, platforms such as Facebook have responded by barring users from posting misleading information about the coronavirus, including denials of expert guidance and encouragement of fake treatments.