Twitter censors tweets on govt’s handling of covid 19 situation
On 23rd April 2021 the Government of India sent a ‘Legal Request’ to Twitter to remove several tweets of people which spoke of the Covid-19 situations in the Nation. Though the exact contents of all the tweets are unavailable since they have been taken down, several of these tweets emphasised on the lack of control the government had on the pandemic situation and further spoke of the improper governance in such situations. There were approximately 50-52 tweets from many people such as opposition politicians, journalists and filmmakers etc.
A legal request was made to twitter to remove these tweets by the Government, the order of the same is available on the Lumen Database. Twitter then evaluated these tweets with its own guidelines & policies along with the Indian Laws. The Government claimed that these tweets should be disallowed under the Information and Communication Technology Act, 2000.
The reason provided by BJP national spokesperson Gopal Agarwal to BBC was that, “We cannot allow fake news that harms the country.”
While these tweets have not been taken down, Twitter responded by censoring these tweets only for the Indian Nation. The Legal request only mentions the law cited as ‘Information and Communication Technology Act, 2000’ and sections are unavailable.
However one may take a look at S.69A of the said Act which deals with power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource in cases where questions of interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence arise.
In the age of Social Media, Twitter is one of the most prominent platforms where one can choose to voice their opinions as freedom to free speech and expression are fundamental rights granted to Indians by the Indian Constitution under Art.19. There are exceptions to this right but the question that lies before us is simple, Is the Govt. violating our freedom in censoring such tweets which are mere expressions of public discontent?