The United States on Monday said that the Indian government’s order asking social media platforms to remove content critical of the country’s handling of the pandemic was not aligned with its view of freedom of speech.
The comment from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki came days after Twitter took down 52 tweets on the coronavirus situation in India, complying with the Narendra Modi government’s request. The tweets included those posted by Congress MP Revanth Reddy, West Bengal minister Moloy Ghatak, actor Vineet Kumar Singh and filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das.
A day later, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asked social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to remove about 100 posts, The Indian Express reported. Unidentified sources in the ministry claimed that the content was “unrelated, old and out of the context images or visuals, communally sensitive posts and misinformation about COVID19 protocols”.
“That certainly wouldn’t be aligned with our view of freedom of speech around the world,” Psaki said on Monday, responding to a reporter’s question on the censorship of content on social media.
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.
Meanwhile, responding to a separate question, Psaki said that the US had no plans yet to put a ban on travel from India. Last week, the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had advised its citizens to avoid travelling to India even if they were fully vaccinated. Several countries, including New Zealand, Australia and Canada have already suspended flights from India.