Complying with the Centre’s request, Twitter has taken down 52 tweets, most of which were critical of India’s handling of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, technology policy portal Medianama reported on Saturday.
The tweets, which are no longer accessible in India, include those posted by Congress MP Revanth Reddy, West Bengal minister Moloy Ghatak, actor Vineet Kumar Singh and filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das. Kapri has confirmed to Medianama about the action taken by Twitter, while another user Peter Friedrich, took to the micro-blogging platform to post the mail sent to him about the censorship.
Lumen Database, an organisation that receives and publishes disclosures of legal takedown notices from private entities, including social media companies, has disclosed the government order that Twitter complied with, Medianama reported.
Congress’ MP from Malkajgiri in Telangana, Revanth Reddy, had tweeted a picture of a mass cremation, noting that India was recording more than two lakh cases of coronavirus each day and that the country’s healthcare system had collapsed. However, his tweet was removed by Twitter. Similarly, West Bengal Law Minister Moloy Ghatak’s tweet criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for exporting vaccines was also taken down, according to Medianama.
Gangs of Wasseypur-fame actor Vineet Kumar Singh’s tweet criticising political rallies amid the pandemic and the shortage of medicines was censored.
Director Vinod Kapri had tweeted a video of mass cremation and sarcastically commented that the promise to make more cremation grounds had been fulfilled. Kapri’s tweet was possibly a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment during campaigning for Uttar Pradesh state elections in 2017, where he compared the number of Hindu cremation grounds and Muslim burial grounds that were built.
Kapri, whose documentary 1232 KMs on the migrant labourer crisis during last year’s coronavirus lockdown, was recently released, wrote to Twitter objecting against the censorship, he told Medianama.
“India is facing biggest crisis of all times, thousands are dying EVERYDAY just because of lack of oxygen and medicines and it is my moral duty as a filmmaker and Journalist to tell the truth, to expose this inhuman and immoral Government who instead of supplying oxygen to dying patients, is writing to Twitter to take action against free and independent voices,” Kapri reportedly wrote.
In a response to Medianama’s queries on its action, Twitter said that upon receiving a legal request, the platform reviews content under rules set by it and the local laws.
“If the content violates Twitter’s Rules, the content will be removed from the service,” Twitter said. “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.”
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has not made any official comment on the matter so far.
Notably in February, at the height of the farmers’ protest against three new agriculture laws, Twitter had withheld several accounts, including those of Caravan magazine and Kisan Ekta Morcha, an umbrella body of the protesters. The accounts were however, restored hours later. Twitter had said its action was in response to a legal demand.
Days later, the Centre had directed Twitter to block nearly 1,200 accounts with suspected links to Khalistan sympathisers or Pakistan. The government had said these accounts were causing a threat to public order amid the farmers’ protest.