Remove ‘Indian Variant’ Mentions: Centre to Social Media Companies

India has the second-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world and has been reporting 4,000 deaths daily.

2 min read

The Centre on Friday asked all social media platforms to remove posts which refer to the ‘Indian variant’ of the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization said on 11 May that the coronavirus variant B.1.617, first identified in India in 2020, was being classified as a variant of global concern.

The information technology (IT) ministry has written to all social media companies asking them to "remove all the content" that names or implies "Indian variant" of the coronavirus, reported Reuters.

India has the second-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world. India recorded 2.57 lakh fresh COVID-19 cases and 4,194 deaths in the last 24 hours. The country saw a new record with 20,66,285 samples tested since yesterday. The overall case count surged past the 2.62 crore-mark on Saturday morning.

“This is completely FALSE. There is no such variant of COVID-19 scientifically cited as such by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO has not associated the term ‘Indian Variant’ with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports.”
IT Ministry’s Letter, quoted by Reuters

A social media executive, quoted by Reuters, said this was a tedious task and "such a move would lead to keyword-based censorship going forward."

Earlier, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had issued advisories regarding curbing of false news/misinformation concerning coronavirus on social media platforms.

However, it is important to note that before the usage of the term ‘Indian variant’, we’ve had the ‘South African variant’ (B.1.351) or the ‘UK variant (B.1.1.7) or the ‘Brazil variant’ (P.1). There have been references to the coronavirus as the ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘Wuhan virus’.

The concern has been that associating a disease, virus or its variant with a country, geographical region or a community leads to stigmatisation and carries a risk of discrimination.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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