India calls social media platforms to remove COVID-19 content using 'Indian variant' label

With COVID-19 content using the term 'Indian variant' being circulated online, the Indian government has asked social media platforms to remove all content possessing this term.

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Temporary COVID-19 clinic in New Delhi. 

Image: Getty Images

All social media platforms have been asked by the Indian government to take down any content that refers to an "Indian variant" of coronavirus, according to a letter published over the weekend.

In the letter, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said the World Health Organization has not associated the term "Indian Variant" with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports. 

The B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus gained the "Indian variant" label when online content claimed it was originated from there. Last month, the UK Science Media Centre said usage of the "India variant" label should be avoided as it is difficult to confirm definitively where the variant first arose.

"[Social media platforms] are requested to remove all the content that names, refers to, or implies 'Indian variant' of coronavirus from your platform immediately," the information technology ministry wrote in the letter.

The letter is a follow-up to another written by MeitY earlier this month, which ordered social media platforms to inform users not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update, or share any information that may mislead the Indian public in any way.

In that initial letter, MeitY urged platforms to initiate awareness campaigns for users to not upload or circulate any false news concerning coronavirus that would likely create panic among the Indian population.

At the same time, the Indian government has also been ordering social media platforms to take down posts that are critical of its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Last month, Twitter was ordered to take down dozens of tweets that criticised the government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Twitter said it complied with those orders as failure to do so could result in the imprisonment of Twitter employees.

At the time of writing, India's COVID-19 tally continues to skyrocket, with over 26.5 million confirmed cases in the country. In the past 24 hours alone, there were 240,000 new reported cases. 

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