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COVID-19 second wave | Government asks Twitter, other social media platforms to remove misleading posts

Twitter said it has notified the impacted account holders of its action taken in response to a legal request from the Indian government but did not give details of the affected accounts.

April 25, 2021 / 09:00 AM IST
According to sources, a number of posts and content were flagged by the government to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other websites on April 23. (Image: Shutterstock)

According to sources, a number of posts and content were flagged by the government to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other websites on April 23. (Image: Shutterstock)

The government has asked social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, to remove content and posts that were spreading misinformation and public panic around the pandemic, according to sources.

Twitter said it has notified the impacted account holders of its action taken in response to a legal request from the Indian government but did not give details of the affected accounts.

Sources said these flagged posts carried misleading information about COVID-19 pandemic, and were designed to incite public panic.

The development comes at a time when India is registering a record number of coronavirus infections daily. The number of COVID-19 cases touched a new daily high of 3.46 lakh cases and 2,624 fatalities on Saturday.

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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

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When contacted, a Twitter spokesperson said when it receives a valid legal request, it reviews it under both 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.

"The legal requests that we receive are detailed in the biannual Twitter Transparency Report, and requests to withhold content are published on Lumen, the spokesperson said.

Reports citing Lumen database (an independent research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content) suggested that more than 50 posts – including those by a member of Parliament, MLA and filmmakers – were removed by Twitter on government request.

Meanwhile, Twitter said ahead of withholding the content, it has notified the account holders so that they're aware that the action has been taken in response to a legal request from the Government of India.

The microblogging platform emphasised that it is committed to the principles of openness and transparency, and that it tackles misinformation based on the highest potential for harm.

It noted that it is tackling COVID-19 misinformation using a combination of product, technology, and human review.

Facebook and Instagram did not respond to queries.

According to sources, a number of posts and content were flagged by the government to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other websites on Friday.

These posts carried misinformation around COVID, were designed to incite public panic and create a feeling of ill-will towards health personnel, they added.

Details of the account holders and number of such posts flagged could not be immediately ascertained.

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