"Govt. asks social media firms to remove reference to ‘Indian variant’ of coronavirus"
India's IT ministry has written to all social media companies asking them to take down any content that refers to an "Indian variant" of the COVID-19, according to a letter issued on Friday which was seen by Reuters.
The WHO said on May 11 that the coronavirus variant B.1.617, first identified in India last
year after that it was found in 44 other countries, was being classified as a variant of global concern.
The Indian government a day later issued a statement saying media reports using the term "Indian Variant" were without any basis, saying the WHO had classified the variant as just B.1.617. In a letter to social media companies on Friday, the IT ministry asked the companies to "remove all the content" that names or implies "Indian variant" of the COVID-19.
"This is completely wrong. There is no such variant of Covid-19 scientifically proved as such by the WHO. WHO has not associated the term 'Indian Variant' with the B.1.617 variant of the Covid-19 in any of its reports," stated the letter, which is not public.
A senior Indian government source told Reuters the notice was issued to send a message "loud and clear" that such mentions of "Indian variant" spread miscommunication and hurt the country's image at the global platform.
The IT ministry could not be reached for comments around the world, coronvirus variants have generically been referred to by doctors and health experts on the basis of where they are identified. This includes South Africa , Brazil and UK variants
A social media executive said it would be difficult to take down all content using the word as there would be hundreds of thousands of such posts mentioning "Indian variant", adding that such a move would lead to keyword based censorship going forward.
The Indian government is facing increased criticism over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state authorities being blamed for not doing pre planning for the ongoing second wave of coronavirus outbreak.