At the request of the Indian government, Twitter removed over 50 tweets critical of the handling of the pandemic, including a tweet from a state minister. In February, during the farmers' protests, Twitter bowed to a similar order by the Indian government.
According to a disclosure notice on the Lumen database, the Indian government sent an emergency order to Twitter on Friday, demanding the censorship of 52 tweets. One of the censored tweets was posted by Moloy Ghatak, a state minister in the state of West Bengal.
“India will never forgive PM @narendramodi for underplaying the corona situation in the country and letting so many people die due to mismanagement. At a time when India is going through a health crisis, the PM chose to export millions of vaccines to other nations.”
A Twitter spokesperson said the platform has to respond to such orders, by reviewing if they break the platform's rules or local laws. If they violate local laws, the tweets are made unavailable to people in the jurisdiction. Twitter also notifies the affected account holders that their content will be restricted for breaking local laws.
“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,” according to the Twitter spokesperson. “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.”
India's law prohibits the publication of content that is defamatory to the government, or content that would incite violence.
The criticism of India's government handling of the pandemic came at the height of the country's COVID-19 second wave.
This is not the first time Twitter has bowed to a censorship request by the Indian government. In February, at the height of the farmers' protests, New Delhi pressured Twitter into permanently blocking more than 500 accounts and restricting others from being seen within India. New Delhi went as far as issuing a non-compliance notice that would see Twitter's employees in Indian arrested.