'Asked to remove posts spreading fake news about COVID-19, not criticism': Govt clarifies on Twitter row

After Twitter removed several tweets on COVID-19, the sources from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) told news agency ANI that the social media platform had been asked to remove around 100 posts or URLs due to misuse and spread of fake or misleading information regarding the pandemic.

"In view of the misuse of social media platforms by certain users to spread fake or misleading information and create panic about the COVID-19 situation in India by using unrelated, old and out of the context images or visuals, communally sensitive posts and misinformation about COVID-19 protocols, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the recommendation of Ministry of Home Affairs has asked social media platforms to remove around 100 posts or URLs," MeitY sources told ANI.

"This decision has been taken to prevent obstructions in the fight against the pandemic and escalation of public order due to these posts," they informed, adding that the decision was made on the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

According to reports, 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.

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.

A Twitter spokesperson told ANI that tweets that advance harmful, false or misleading narratives about COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be removed from the platform.

"...We will label or place a warning on Tweets that advance unsubstantiated rumours, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information about vaccines. Tweets which advance harmful false or misleading narratives about COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be removed," the spokesperson said.

As per the microblogging website's updated blog, labels will appear in set display language and may link to curated content and official public health information or the Twitter Rules.

"Our goal with these product interventions is to provide people with additional context and authoritative information about COVID-19," the blog read.

They also informed about the use of the strike system, similar to their recent update to the Civic Integrity Policy. Repeated violations of the COVID-19 policy are enforced on the basis of the number of strikes.

One strike will not result in account-level action, two strikes and three strikes will enforce a 12-hour account lock. Four strikes will be met with a seven-day account lock, and the person with five or more strikes will be permanently suspended.

(With inputs from ANI)

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