Outrage as Twitter deletes critical Covid tweets in India

Twitter withheld hundreds of tweets about the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Human rights campaigners accuse Twitter of censorship.

Twitter withheld hundreds of tweets about the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Human rights campaigners accuse Twitter of censorship. Picture: Pexels

CAPE TOWN, 26 April (ANA) – Twitter withheld hundreds of tweets critical of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis on Sunday.

According to senators and human rights campaigners, the suspension of scores of tweets deemed critical of the Indian government’s treatment of the coronavirus pandemic endangers people’s health and stifles dissent, reported the Guardian.

Lumen from Harvard University, a website that maintains track of global government orders around online content, says that the Indian government has sent an emergency order to censor the tweets.

The tweets were blocked in India following a legal request from New Delhi, months after similar action was taken in response to criticism of the government’s new agriculture rules, which triggered violent protests.

“Suppression of information and criticism of the government is not only dangerous for India, but it is putting people around the world at risk,” said lawyer Mirza Saaib Beg, who saw her tweets removed.

“We cannot allow fake news that harms the country,” BJP national spokesperson Gopal Agarwal said to the BBC.

Tweets from a lawmaker named Revnath Reddy, a minister in the state of West Bengal named Moloy Ghatak, and a filmmaker named Avinash Das were among those whose tweets were deleted.

“Freedom of inquiry is an intrinsic part of freedom of speech and expression. These restrictions are further reflective of the weakening of all institutional spaces in India,” said Beg, who is studying at the University of Oxford, to Al Jazeera.

Twitter stated in its most recent accountability report for the six months ending June 30, 2020, that it had submitted 42,220 legal requests to delete posts from 53 countries, the majority of which came from five countries, including Russia, India and Turkey.

The Indian IT ministry has said it is necessary to take action against “the misuse of social media platforms by certain users to spread fake or misleading information and create panic about the Covid-19 situation in India”.

The government’s Twitter request cites the Information Technology Act, 2000, which authorises the authority to order blocking public access to information.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Naomi Mackay

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