COVID-19 is devastating India. The Chinese government is working hard to censor social media.

COVID-19 is devastating India. The Chinese government is working hard to censor social media.



Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency (via Getty Images)

On April 29, 2021, workers adjusted the funeral matches for those who died of COVID-19 during the large-scale cremation at the New Delhi crematorium.

India is a country with a population of 1.4 billion, and it is bound by the second deadly wave. coronavirus Pandemic. But even if the health care system is out of breath and the crematorium is burned to death by thousands of funeral matches, its leaders are still scrambling to censor the Internet.

Last week, the Indian IT Ministry Order Twitter banned more than 50 tweets in the country. A few days later, New York Times, This Wall Street Journalwith Times of India The report said that Facebook, Instagram and YouTube also deleted posts criticizing the government.In the past week, ordinary people running WhatsApp and Telegram groups can help people find medical oxygen and hospital beds complain Threatened to shut it down, and the police in Uttar Pradesh Lodge a complaint Opposing a man who asked for medical oxygen from his dying grandfather on Twitter, he claimed that he “spread misleading information.”On Wednesday, a post with the hashtag #ResignModi Disappeared Stayed a few hours from Facebook. Even though the company restored it and claimed that the Indian government did not request its review, it did not provide detailed information on why the label was blocked.

These incidents occurred within a few days, as the criticism of the Indian government reached a climax. These events highlight the shrinking space for dissidents in the world’s largest democracy.As social chaos With the development of authoritarian government, the government cracked down on social media, which is one of the last free spaces for citizens to express their Stipulate The government has been given extensive powers to restrict content, forcing the US technology platform with India as its main market to strike a balance between growth and freedom of speech.

This is not the first time the Indian government has attempted to censor speech online. In 2012, before Modi came to power, India’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government Order Internet service providers blocked more than a dozen Twitter accounts, including those from right-wing individuals.

Apar Gupta, director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, a digital copyright organization, told BuzzFeed News: “But now, the frequency and scale of censorship are increasing.” “India’s current Internet censorship system Directly related to social criticism of government policies.”

In February, the Government of India Order Twitter will delete more than 250 tweets that criticize the government’s handling of protests about the new agricultural law. Although Twitter blocked most accounts, despite the threat of prison, the Indian government removed the blocking of accounts belonging to journalists, activists and politicians.

“India’s current Internet censorship system is directly related to social criticism of government policies.”

Last weekend, the Indian IT Ministry tried to explain the reason in an unsigned Word document shared with the media, which was interviewed by BuzzFeed News.

This”[g]The government welcomes criticism, sincere requests for help, and suggestions made in the collective fight against COVID19. “But it is necessary to take action against users who abuse social media for unethical purposes during this serious humanitarian crisis. “

The ministry cited a small number of 53 tweets and ordered them to be blocked as examples of problematic content. Four tweets referred to the coronavirus pandemic as conspiracy theories, and four tweets contained “ancient and unrelated visual effects of patients and corpses.” At least two of these four instances are real examples of false information, a fact checker from the Indian media Alt News and Newschecker who checks images told BuzzFeed News.

In one example of how narrow the line between removing dangerous rumors and censoring political speech may be, the ministry did not provide any explanation for any other content ordered to be published. BuzzFeed News’ inspection of the remaining restricted tweets revealed that at least some of them appeared to have made reasonable criticisms of the Indian Prime Minister. For example, one of the restricted tweets came from the minister of West Bengal, Moloy Ghatak. When there was a shortage in India, he accused Modi of managing the pandemic and exporting vaccines.

Neither Ghatak nor the IT department responded to requests for comment

One tweet restricted in India belonged to Pawan Khera, the national spokesperson of the Indian National Congress, the main opposition party in India. The tweet, published on April 12, shows a photo of the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu religious gathering held earlier this month, during which millions of people bathed in the river even with the rapid increase in coronavirus cases. Both ordinary Indians and the global press criticized the Indian government for allowing gatherings. Kayla’s tweet contrasted sharply with India’s response to the incident last year. Last year, there were fewer than 1,000 confirmed cases of Muslims in the country. At that time, members of a Muslim gathering were accused of spreading the coronavirus. India did not respond to this.

“Why are my tweets not showing up?” Khera told BuzzFeed News. “This is the answer I need from the Indian government.”

“Which laws have I violated? What rumors am I spreading? Where am I causing the panic? These are the questions I need to answer.” Legal requirements To the IT department and Twitter this week.

“If I don’t hear from them, I will take them to court.”

He said: “If I don’t hear from them, I will take them to court.” “I need legal remedies to protect my freedom of speech.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Experts said the ministry’s instructions did not provide sufficient reasons to order social media platforms to review posts. “Since when did the government start sending deletion notices to inform the wrong information?” Alt News editor Pratik Sinha asked. “Why only quote these tweets [out of 53]? “

Social media platforms are not the only place to be suppressed. In the past few weeks, the network voluntarily run by the WhatsApp and Telegram groups has expanded requests for help, and has created a nationwide way for people to obtain medical oxygen, life-saving medicine and hospital beds. But in the past few days, some of them have disbanded.According to a report On the Indian news website Quint, volunteers who manage these groups received calls from people claiming to be from the Delhi police, asking them to shut them down.

Delhi Police be rejected This, but by then, people have been stunned. Even without receiving a call, a WhatsApp group network composed of more than 300 disbanded volunteers a few days ago. The founder of the organization wants to remain anonymous. He told BuzzFeed News: “We decided not to take risks.”[I felt] Frustration and anger. “

Experts say that one of the biggest problems in this situation is the lack of transparency between the government and the platform. Last week, Twitter disclosed the details of the IT department’s order on the Harvard University database Lumen, which allows the company to disclose dismissal notices from governments around the world. But Facebook, Instagram, and Google did not comment on the so-called censorship of one of the largest markets asked, whether it was to the public or BuzzFeed news.

Gupta of the Internet Freedom Foundation said: “They didn’t even make a public statement about it.” “The primary responsibility for transparency lies with the government, but there is absolutely no transparency on the platform.”


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