Days after it blocked dozens of posts allegedly critical of COVID-19 crisis handling, Twitter has said it will consider more requests from the government to withhold content and will continue to engage "openly and constructively" with it. "We notify the account holder directly so they're aware that we've received a legal order pertaining to the account by sending a message to the email address associated with the account(s), if available, unless we are prohibited from doing so," Twitter said in a blog on Thursday..
The microblogging platform had received a number of takedown requests from India over the past few months around content that the government termed as misinformation around farmer protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. "In the event we receive more requests to withhold content from the Government of India within the country, we will continue to engage openly and constructively based on our overarching commitment to serve the public conversation during a crisis," Twitter said.
It added that the platform will continue to proactively communicate to any affected account, and publish every individual request it receives from the government to the Lumen Database. Just a few days back, Twitter and other social media platforms removed about 100 posts and URLs after the government asked them to remove content that was critical of the handling of the current medical crisis or spreading fake news around the pandemic.
Reports citing Lumen database, an independent research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content, suggested that more than 50 posts – including those by a Member of Parliament, MLA and filmmakers – were removed by Twitter on government request. Government sources had said social media platforms were asked to remove the posts and URLs (uniform resource locators) to "prevent obstructions in the fight against the pandemic" and disruption of public order due to the said posts.
In its blog, Twitter said it continues to support a range of government authorities with public service initiatives around the COVID-19 pandemic. "This includes working with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to support a dedicated handle, @CovidIndiaSeva, which is enabling more transparent real-time e-governance delivery; the Ministry is able to communicate effectively and at scale with individual citizens to address urgent health-related queries. We've supported and enabled multiple state governments to set-up similar dedicated COVID-19 response accounts," it added.
The massive rise in infections in the second wave of the pandemic has led to hospitals in several states reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have emerged as a lifeline during this crisis, helping connect those looking for oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, plasma donors, and ventilators with possible donors. Twitter said it tackles COVID-19 misinformation based on the highest potential for harm using a combination of product, technology and human review.
"As of March 1, 2021, following the update to our COVID-19 misleading information policy regarding misleading information about vaccines, we apply a label warning on Tweets that advance unsubstantiated rumours and disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information about vaccines," it said. Tweets which advance harmful false or misleading narratives about COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be removed, it added.
Twitter noted that a global team of specialists are working round the clock to make it easy to find credible information on Twitter, and to limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content.