broader conflict playing out globally. Governments across the world have been seeking to rein in the power of the largest tech companies, like Twitter and Facebook, whose policies have huge political impact far from their California headquarters. In the best of cases, it can be difficult to disentangle government efforts to tamp down misinformation from other motivations, like tilting online debate in one political party’s favor.

While the companies seek to hew to policies that they say are based on the principles of free speech, their responses to government power plays have been inconsistent and often based on business pragmatism. In Myanmar, Facebook cut business ties with military-linked accounts over violence against protesters. In China, Facebook does brisk business with state-backed media groups that have been busy denying the widespread internment of ethnic minorities, which the United States has labeled a genocide.

increasingly aggressive at stifling dissent. It has arrested activists and journalists, and pressured media organizations to hew to its line. It has cut off mobile internet access in troubled areas. After a standoff with China, it blocked a number of apps owned by Chinese companies.

In February, Twitter relented in the face of government threats to arrest its employees, and blocked 500 accounts after the government accused them of making inflammatory remarks about Mr. Modi. Twitter declined, however, to remove a number of journalists’ and politicians’ accounts, pointing out that the orders to block them did not appear to be consistent with Indian law.

In a Sunday statement, India’s government said the posts it targeted “spread fake or misleading information” and created “panic about the Covid-19 situation in India by using unrelated, old and out of the context images or visuals.” It pointed to photos in several posts that it said were of bodies unrelated to the recent outbreak.

wrote Mahua Moitra, a politician and member of parliament from West Bengal.

Aftab Alam, a professor at the University of Delhi was more direct.

“Because you know it’s easier to take down tweets than it is to ensure oxygen supplies,” he wrote on Twitter.

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