July 25, 2021

India seeks to increase censorship of social networks

Do not say any more “Indian variant” but “B.1.617”. Worried about the degradation of its image in the world, India ordered the social networks used in the country, Friday, May 21, to remove all online content that attaches the adjective “Indian” to the variant of the coronavirus suspected of having fueled the gigantic second epidemic wave of Covid-19 which has submerged the subcontinent since March.

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Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government makes this a matter of principle, with the World Health Organization (WHO) itself refraining from linking SARS-CoV-2 variants to a specific geographic location.

“We have learned that a false statement is circulating online, according to which a variant if of the coronavirus is spreading in all countries. This is completely FALSE “, strikes New Delhi in capital letters, in a letter addressed, among others, to the executives of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – but which could read the agency Reuters and the Indian news site The Wire.

Inapplicable measure of the autocratic regime

A surprisingly late declaration, when the expression “Indian variant” has been used since March, as are the adjectives “British”, “Brazilian” and “South African” to designate the new strains of SARS-CoV- 2 appeared in recent months.

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All over the world, the scientific community, politicians and the media refer to these nationalities, in connection with the country where each of the variants in question was first detected. Regarding B.1.617, it was initially spotted on October 5, 2020 in the vicinity of Nagpur, the city located at the exact geographical center of India.

According to the leader of one of the main global social networks concerned, quoted anonymously by the Indian press, it would be difficult to remove all content using the adjective “Indian”, given that there is ” hundreds of thousands “. In addition, this measure, if applied, “Would lead to keyword-based censorship in the future”. Inapplicable, therefore, it shows to what extent the autocratic regime in place is sensitive to its reputation, when the population begins to hold it to account, the country breaking dramatic records.

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On Sunday May 23, the country officially deplored more than 300,000 deaths from Covid-19, but experts agree that the current toll is two to three times higher. The official number of people detected positive will soon approach 30 million, but the true number of contaminations could be ten times higher, around 300 million.

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