Indian government censors COVID-19 Twitter posts

Occurred: April 2021

The removal of tweets about COVID-19 on the order of the Indian government  prompted lawmakers and human rights activists to accuse the government of censorship and further putting peoples' health at risk. 

The discovery that the government had made an emergency order to censor tweets was revealed on Lumen, which publishes details of legal takedown notices social media companies and others receive from governments and private entities across the world. The order was first revealed by MediaNama.

Local reports indicated the banned material includes a tweet from Pawan Khera, a spokesman for India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC), who accused Modi of holding political rallies while the virus raged and failing to acknowledge that they likely contributed directly to the spread of COVID-19.

Others on the list included posts by INC parliamentarian Revanth Reddy, West Bengal state minister Moloy Ghatak, and filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das. A number of tweets castigated Modi for failing to fix India's healthcare system, which has run out of beds, oxygen and medicines, leading to a humanitarian disaster.

A Twitter spokesperson told DW, '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.' 

A few days later, Facebook was discovered to have been temporarily hiding posts calling for the resignation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Operator: Twitter
Developer: Twitter

Country: India

Sector: Politics; Health

Purpose: Moderate content

Technology: Content moderation system
Issue: Freedom of expression - censorship

Transparency: Governance; Black box

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: February 2023