India Demands Twitter, Facebook and Instagram Remove Posts Criticizing Handling of Covid-19

The country has since faced an outcry over its censorship of free speech.

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India's government has ordered Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to delete posts that were critical of its handling of Covid-19, sparking outcry over censorship, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

The South Asian country demanded that the social media platforms remove approximately 100 posts, arguing that the posts contained misinformation. Some of those posts reportedly included images of dead bodies, and others came from public figures, including Parliament member Revanth Reddy, actor Vineet Kumar Singh and West Bengal minister Moloy Ghatak, according to Indian news outlet Medianama

Related: India Will Be the World's Third-Largest Economy by 2031, Bank of America Projects

"Certain people are misusing social media to create panic in society," India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement on Monday. 

Much of the takedown requests were directed at Twitter, which complied with the order.

"When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law," a Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch. "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, which owns Instagram, took down the posts as well, although it has not appeared to publicly address the matter. 

As a result, a wave of social media backlash has followed the mass takedown of the posts, with users accusing India's government of censorship. The criticism comes as India recorded more than 330,000 new Covid cases on Monday, making it now the epicenter of the global pandemic.

Though a democratic country, India has taken a hard line on free speech under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership. Earlier this year, for example, the government ordered Twitter to take down a magazine's account as Indian farmers protested against the deregulation of the country's agriculture industry. The order was part of a widespread effort to limit posts critical of the government at the time. 

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