NEW DELHI — With a devastating second wave of Covid-19 sweeping across India and lifesaving supplemental oxygen in short supply, India’s government on Sunday said it ordered Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to take down dozens of social media posts critical of its handling of the pandemic.
The order was aimed at roughly 100 posts that included critiques from opposition politicians and calls for Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, to resign. The government said that the posts could incite panic, used images out of context, and could hinder its response to the pandemic.
The companies complied with the requests for now, in part by making the posts invisible to those using the sites inside India. In the past, the companies have reposted some content after determining that it didn’t break the law.
The takedown orders come as India’s public health crisis spirals into a political one, and set the stage for a widening struggle between American social media platforms and Mr. Modi’s government over who decides what can be said online.
are probably much higher. The country now accounts for almost half of all new cases globally. Its health system appears to be teetering. Hospitals across the country have scrambled to get enough oxygen for patients.
In New Delhi, the capital, hospitals this weekend turned away patients after running out of oxygen and beds. Last week, at least 22 patients were killed in a hospital in the city of Nashik, after a leak cut off their oxygen supplies.
Online photos of bodies on plywood hospital beds and the countless fires of overworked crematories have gone viral. Desperate patients and their families have pleaded online for help from the government, horrifying an international audience.
On Sunday evening, in one of many pleas for help on social media, Ajay Koli took to Twitter to find an oxygen cylinder in Delhi for his mother, who, he said, had tested positive 10 days ago. Mr. Koli said he lost his father on Saturday. “I don’t want to lose my mom now.”
risks of loosening restrictions, after he held large political rallies with little regard for social distancing. Some of the content now offline in India highlighted that contradiction, using lurid images to contrast Mr. Modi’s rallies with the flames of funeral pyres.