Twitter Deletes Tweets Criticizing Indian Prime Minister Amid COVID-19 Explosion

Twitter has been deleting posts that are critical of the Indian government while the world’s largest democracy grapples with the most severe spike of COVID-19 infections on our planet.

Photo by Hannah McKay-Pool/Getty Images

The social media giant has removed tweets that reflect growing distress over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, which is mercilessly tearing through India.

Twitter “has complied with government requests to censor 52 tweets that mostly criticized India’s handling of the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. These tweets, which are now inaccessible to Indian users of the social media website, 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,” MediaNama reported on Saturday.

In a statement to MediaNama, Twitter claimed that it was enforcing its policies against fake news and sources of misinformation:

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.

The posts in question were not fake news, however. They were the desperate cries of a suffering population – and Twitter is taking its marching orders from the Modi regime to quash every whisper of dissent.

The deleted posts are below, per MediaNama:

West Bengal’s Minister of Labour and Law Moloy Ghatak tweeted that India would ‘never forgive’ the Prime Minister for what he described as underplaying the seriousness of the pandemic, and for exporting doses to other countries. This tweet by Ghatak was removed for Indian users. MediaNama is not reproducing or quoting directly from these tweets.

Revanth Reddy,Member of Parliament for Malkajgiri, Telangana, tweeted that India was having over 200,000 new cases of the virus per day, and that the healthcare system was collapsing, along with a picture of a mass cremation. This tweet, too, was removed. A tweet by ABP News editor Pankaj Jha, calling out the difference in attitudes towards the Tablighi Jamaat event in 2020 and the Kumbh Mela, was also removed.

Actor Vineet Kumar Singh, for instance, tweeted in Hindi that he was in Varanasi and that it was difficult to get medication, and criticised political rallies being held amid the pandemic. The government ordered Twitter to remove this tweet for Indian users. We have reached out to Singh’s publicist for comment.

Filmmaker and former journalist Vinod Kapri made a tweet about the mass cremations with a video of one such cremation ground. In that tweet, Kapri made a sarcastic remark about how a promise to make more shmashānas (Hindu cremation grounds) had been fulfilled. Twitter withheld this tweet in India. ‘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 wrote in a response to Twitter’s email that he shared with MediaNama.


Read MediaNama’s full report here.

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