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India Calls on Social Media Companies to Remove Reference to ‘Indian Variant’ of Coronavirus | India News


NEW DELHI: India’s Ministry of Information Technology (IT) has written to all social media companies asking them to remove any content that refers to an “Indian variant” of the coronavirus, according to a letter issued Friday that was seen by Reuters.
The World Health Organization said on May 11 that the variant of the coronavirus B.1.617, first identified in India last year, was being classified as a variant of global concern.
A day later, the Indian government issued a statement saying that media reports using the term “Indian variant” were unfounded, saying that the WHO had classified the variant as only B.1.617.
In a letter to social media companies on Friday, the IT ministry called on companies to “remove all content” that names or implies “Indian variant” of the coronavirus.
“This is completely FALSE. There is no such variant of Covid-19 scientifically cited as such by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has not associated the term ‘Indian variant’ with variant B.1.617 of the coronavirus in any of their reports ”, said the letter, which is not public.
A senior Indian government source told Reuters the notice was issued to send a “loud and clear” message that such mentions of the “Indian variant” spread miscommunication and damage the country’s image.
The IT ministry could not be reached for comment.
Around the world, doctors and health experts have referred to variants of the coronavirus generically based on where they are identified. This includes variants from South Africa and Brazil.
One social media executive said it would be difficult to remove all content using the word as there would be hundreds of thousands of such posts, adding that “such a move would lead to keyword-based censorship in the future.”
The Indian government is facing increasing criticism for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Prime Minister Modi and state authorities blamed for failing to properly plan for the second wave of ongoing coronavirus infections.
India has the second highest count of Covid-19 cases in the world and has reported around 250,000 infections and 4,000 deaths daily.

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