India targets US tech giants to silence Covid-19 critics
Share this article:
In its bid to silence critics over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and continuing farmer protests, the Indian government has taken aim at US tech giants Twitter, Facebook and Amazon in order to restrict public content.
According to Al Jazeera, at the behest of the Indian government, in February Twitter deleted hundreds of accounts and tweets about the farmer protests against agricultural laws that were passed in India. However, the tech giant later restored them following public backlash, going against the government’s wishes.
In April, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered Twitter and Facebook to remove more than a hundred posts over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the midst of the deadly outbreak.
TechCrunch, a US-based digital publication which focuses on hi-tech and start-up companies, reported that Indian police visited Twitter’s offices in May to serve a notice about an investigation into its classification of tweets made by politicians as “misleading”.
Meanwhile, authorities in New Delhi passed new IT rules that require social media platforms to disclose the identities of people posting content, and on Tuesday officials said in a court filing that Twitter has lost its liability protection against user-generated content in India after repeated non-compliance.
But the tech companies aren’t willing to give up on India’s burgeoning market.
“The Indian digital ecosystem is one of the most important markets out there,” said Anand Raghuraman, vice-president at the Asia Group, a strategic advisory firm.
“Leading tech companies recognise this and that’s why they continue to invest in India in a big way and we don’t see that changing in the near term,” he said.
Raghuraman added that the latest official data showed that India boasts 1.1 billion mobile phone subscribers with around 757 million internet users who go online using their mobile devices. Big tech firms recognise the opportunity and potential customer pool as India’s digital advertising market continues to grow.
However, some are concerned about the big tech firms’ lack of user-centric policies.
“Big tech like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Google often make terrible policies and decisions that are often harming millions of Indians,” read a statement by a New Delhi-based digital rights advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF).