Daily Management Review

India Orders Social Media Firms To Take Down 'India Variant' From Covid Content


India Orders Social Media Firms To Take Down 'India Variant' From Covid Content
Social media companies in India have been ordered by the government to remove any content that gas reference to the words "Indian variant" of Covid-19 arguing that the variant has been identified as B.1.617 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and any reference to “Indian” should be identified as false.
This order was passed by the Information and Technology ministry of the country.
It is common to use geographical terms to identify and describe a number of other variants such as the UK and Brazilian variant of the novel coronavirus.
The Indian government last month had also asked Twitter to remove posts that have been critical of the role of the government in management of the severe second wave of Covid-19.
A new variant of the novel coronavirus has ravaged India since late March resulting in the second largest infections of Covid-19 of the world after the United States. According to Johns Hopkins University research, infection in India has surpassed the 26 million mark.
The total number of deaths because of the Covid-19 in the country is more than 300,000 – behind only to the US and Brazil even as some experts have predicted that the actual death toll in India could be much higher.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has sent the government orders about the removal of content containing “Indian variant” of coronavirus to the social media companies operating in the country.
The order was not sent publicly but was obtained by the media and news agencies.
According to the Press Trust of India, social media companies were ordered to "remove all the content that names, refers to, or implies 'Indian variant' of coronavirus from your platform immediately".
"It has come to our knowledge that a false statement is being circulated online which implies that an 'Indian variant' of coronavirus is spreading across the countries. This is completely FALSE," AFP news agency quoted the same letter as saying.
According to the order note, the Indian government has argued that the WHO has "not associated the term 'Indian variant' with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports".
However according to reports citing executives of social media companies, it would be very difficult to remove all posts that refer to the "Indian variant".
A very transmissible variant of the coronavirus, B.1.617 was first detected last year in India and has since been detected in about a dozen other countries. A number of countries have severely restricted arrivals from India.
India is a massive market for social media companies. For example, it is the third largest market for Twitter according to statistics from January this year.
A set of guidelines that the Indian government claimed were designed to curb misuse of social media platforms and the spread of misinformation was introduced this year by the government.
Social media companies can be given a takedown order if the platforms carried what the government termed as being "unlawful" material. There can also be punitive action taken against social media companies if they fail to comply with such orders within set deadlines.