The government of India last week asked micro blogging platform Twitter to take down posts critical of the union government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. According to a submission made by Twitter to Harvard University’s Lumen database, 21 of these posts have been banned by the platform for viewing in India.
The posts, flagged by the government, included those by Revanth Reddy, Congress leader and member of parliament from Malkajgiri, Telangana, Congress party spokesperson Pawan Khera, West Bengal cabinet minister and Trinamool Congress leader Moloy Ghatak, among others. The tweets criticised the lack of infrastructure that was required to deal with the second wave of Covid-19.
Khera later tweeted that he had sent a legal notice to the office of Ravi Shankar Prasad at Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and Twitter Inc for taking down his post.
My legal notice to @rsprasad @OfficeOfRSP & @Twitter for pulling down of my tweet exposing double standards on #KumbhMela & #tablighijamaat— Pawan Khera (@Pawankhera) April 25, 2021
श्री रवि शंकर प्रसाद एवं ट्विटर को मेरे कुम्भ मेला व तबलिग़ी जमात पर दोहरे मापदंड पर किए ट्वीट हटाने को चुनौती देते हुए क़ानूनी नोटिस pic.twitter.com/VKLu3wBcr6
According to media reports, MeitY had asked Twitter to take down 52 posts in its order.
“When we receive a valid legal request, we review it under both the Twitter Rules and local law. If the content violates Twitter 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,” said a Twitter spokesperson in response to queries sent by TechCircle.
The spokesperson further added, “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.”
The current set of Tweets did not have a common hashtag similar to the one in January and February when MeitY had asked the platform to take down nearly 1,367 posts under section 69A of the Information Technology Act. Twitter had acted against 500 of these accounts after receiving a non-compliance notice for restoring some of the flagged accounts. These were linked to the farmers’ protest and some of the accounts were flagged by the government for suspected terror links.