Twitter removes at least 52 tweets critical of Indian govt’s pandemic response

Twitter removed at least 52 tweets after the legal request by the Indian government.

Hyderabad: The Indian government asked the social media platform Twitter to take down dozens of tweets, including those by state legislators and members of parliament, that were critical of its ongoing COVID-19 response, reports said.

52 tweets at least were censored by the social media platform in India, that mostly criticised the country’s poor handling of the second wave of COVID-19 cases in the country, technology portal Medianama said in its exclusive report.

Twitter removed them after the legal request by the Indian government, a company spokeswoman told Reuters on Saturday. The government made an emergency order to censor the tweets, Twitter disclosed on Lumen database, a Harvard University project.

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The law cited in the government’s request was the Information Technology Act, 2000, Reuters reported.

These tweets include posts by Malkajgiri MP Revanth Reddy; West Bengal state minister Moloy Ghatak; actor Vineet Kumar Singh; and two filmmakers, Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das. The tweets are now inaccessible to Indian users, the portal said.

In his removed tweet, Congress MP Revanth Reddy said that India was having over 200,000 new cases of the virus per day, and that the healthcare system was collapsing, along with a picture of a mass cremation. 

Filmmaker and former journalist Vinod Kapri, who directed the 1232 KMs on the migrant workers’ exodus during last year’s lockdown, has confirmed to Medianama about the action taken by Twitter that he had received a notice from Twitter, restricting his post in India. In a separate tweet, Kapri wrote: “Instead of supplying oxygen to dying patients, the government is writing to Twitter to take action against free and independent voices.”

Another user, Peter Friedrich, took to the micro-blogging platform to post the mail sent to him about censorship.

In response to Medianama’s query, Twitter said in a statement: 

When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law. 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. We notify the user(s) by sending a message to the email address associated with the account(s), if available. Read more about our Legal request FAQs.  The legal requests that we receive are detailed in the biannual Twitter Transparency Report, and requests to withhold content are published on Lumen

India continues to reel under the much severe second COVID-19 wave, with 349,691 new infections and 2,767 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. Overwhelmed hospitals in India begged for oxygen supplies on Saturday as the country’s COVID-19 infections continue to soar in what the Delhi high court called a “tsunami.”

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