India orders Twitter to pull tweets criticizing its COVID-19 response

India is once again trying to silence online criticism of its government. Medianama and TechCrunch report that the Indian government has ordered Twitter to pull more than 50 tweets criticizing the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Twitter has since blocked residents’ access to the posts, which included critiques from a Member of Parliament, a minister and prominent members of the film industry.

Twitter isn’t the only affected platform, TechCrunch added.

The company didn’t directly address the removals in a statement, and instead outlined its policy. Twitter will only “withhold access” to content within a given region if it’s deemed illegal but doesn’t violate the social networks’ policies. The firm added that it notifies account holders “directly” when a legal order affects their service, and publishes takedown requests on Lumen.

India is struggling with a record surge of COVID-19 cases after faring relatively well earlier in 2021. Hospitals have been overwhelmed, and oxygen shortages have compounded efforts to treat severe cases. Critics have blamed Prime Minister Modi’s administration for the failures, including packed election rallies, religious gatherings and a lack of preparation for a second wave.

Twitter has stood its ground at times. It said in February that it wouldn’t block activists, journalists and politicians in India. Those safeguards don’t apply to others, though. Much like other social networks, Twitter is trying to strike a balance between freedom of expression and honoring local laws — and that doesn’t always work out as hoped.

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