Amidst the COVID-19 emergency wreaking havoc upon India, the Indian Government has asked popular social media platform Twitter to ban 52 tweets. The selected tweets are related to criticizing of the government’s handling of COVID-19 by several prominent users, including MLA, MP, Editors, and more. Twitter was asked to block these tweets but the company has withheld the visibility of these tweets within India.

Reported first by Medianama, the banned tweets include prominent Indian politicians and celebrities. “[These]… include posts by Revanth Reddy, a sitting Member of Parliament; Moloy Ghatak, a West Bengal state minister; actor Vineet Kumar Singh; and two filmmakers, Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das,” says the report.

Twitter censors COVID-19 related tweets

In response to requests regarding comments on the ban, Twitter released the following reply to media. “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,” says a Twitter Spokesperson.

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The microblogging site also added that tweets will be deleted only of a certain tweet spreads false information or paints a dangerous narrative. The selection of 52 tweets are currently withheld from viewing within India but users outside the country can still interact with these tweets.

Twitter was previously involved in a disagreement with the Indian government during the farmer protests held in February 2021. At the time, Twitter India had to block 500 accounts and censor some content from viewing within India. This was done after Twitter initially denied blocking content and the Indian Government served the company a notice of “Non Compliance”. Disagreeing to the latter could have resulted in jail for employees. The accounts were later restored.

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