NEW DELHI (NYTIMES) - With a devastating second wave of Covid-19 sweeping across India and lifesaving supplemental oxygen in short supply, India's government on Sunday (April 25) 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 Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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 did not 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.
On Sunday, the country reported more than 349,691 new infections and 2,767 deaths, marking the fourth consecutive day it set a world record in daily infection statistics, though experts warn that the true numbers 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.
Mr Modi has been under attack for ignoring the advice of experts about the 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.