Govt orders removal of posts on Covid-19, terms it ‘inflammatory content’
The Centre issued orders to take down over 100 “inflammatory” posts and accounts across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram related to Covid-19, including an official Facebook page of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, officials familiar with the matter said on Saturday, as cases of the infectious disease continued to surge across the country.
“Covid related posts that showed photos of cremations that were incendiary, inflammatory messages that could incite the public and lead to assaults on healthcare personnel are among those that have been blocked,” a government official familiar with the developments said on condition of anonymity.
HT learns that the Mamata Banerjee Facebook page under scrutiny was “Banglar Gorbo Mamata”, which has over 2.7 million followers and is a verified account. HT could access the page until late evening and could not independently verify whether the admin had received a notice from Facebook.
Other affected accounts included those of Congress MP Revanth Reddy, TMC’s Moloy Ghatak, a West Bengal state minister, two filmmakers, Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das, and Mamata Banerjee Supporters (FAM) on Twitter. Flagged posts by these accounts have been blocked by Twitter in India. Facebook declined to comment on the matter.
The emergency blocking orders, under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, were issued by the ministry of electronics and information technology on Friday and the full order came into force on Saturday. “A Mamata Banerjee election handle is also part of the blocking orders,” the official quoted above said. “All orders have been issued as they constitute content misinformation.”
Of the over 100 blocking orders, 52 have been received by Twitter, a person familiar with the matter said, adding that Twitter has complied with the orders and has withheld the specific posts in the country, while the accounts continue to be functional. The company is considering the further course of action, the person added.
A Twitter spokesperson clarified that the company complies on the receipt of a valid legal request and disclosures of the blocking are made on Lumen. “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,” the spokesperson said.
TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien severely criticized the government’s move. “MO-SHA are fascists. We have been saying that for a while. Losers cannot handle criticism,” he said. “Why are we all getting angry that they blocked Twitter accounts. They block oxygen from gasping citizens.”