Indian government asked social media giant Twitter to take down dozens of tweets, including some by legislators, that were critical of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, as cases of COVID-19 again hit a world record.
Twitter has withheld some of the tweets after the legal request by the Indian government, Reuters reported quoting the company’s spokesperson.
The government made an emergency order to censor the tweets, Twitter disclosed on Lumen database, a Harvard University project.
In the government’s legal request, dated April 23 and disclosed on Lumen, 21 tweets were mentioned.
Among them were tweets from a legislator named Revnath Reddy, a minister in the state of West Bengal named Moloy Ghatak and a filmmaker named Avinash Das.
The law cited in the government’s request was the Information Technology Act, 2000.
“When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law,” the Twitter spokeswoman said.
“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,” she said.
The spokeswoman confirmed that Twitter had notified account holders directly about withholding their content and let them know that it received a legal order pertaining to their tweets.
AFP reported that the government asked Twitter to remove 100 posts, adding that there was “the misuse of social media platforms by certain users to spread fake or misleading information and create panic about the COVID-19 situation in India”.
India is in the grip of a rampaging second wave of the pandemic.
Criticism is rising that Mr Modi’s federal government and state authorities were not adequately prepared to handle the crisis.
Health experts said India became complacent months earlier, when new cases were running at about 10,000 a day and seemed to be under control.
Authorities lifted restrictions, allowing the resumption of big gatherings, including large festivals and political rallies for local elections.
India’s healthcare system has struggled to cope with the huge surge, with patients’ families pleading for help on social media as the country faced severe medicine and oxygen shortages.