As COVID-19 continues to ravage India, the nation’s government has told it populace that 5G signals have nothing to do with the spread of the virus – if only because no 5G networks operate in India.
A statement from the nation’s Department of Telecommunications states “several misleading messages are being circulated on various social media platforms claiming that the second wave of coronavirus has been caused by the testing of the 5G mobile towers.”
After pointing out that the very notion is a nonsense, the department points out that India approved 5G trials on May 4th and they won’t start for months.
Fighting misinformation is one reason that India has introduced a new Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code that gives the nation’s government considerable powers to order content takedowns and require service providers to identify their users.
In February 2021, India has also ordered that certain social media accounts be made unavailable on grounds they were spreading misinformation.
However, critics said many of the impacted accounts belonged to opposition politicians who criticised the government of its handling of mass protests by farmers angered by new agricultural product distribution laws.
India’s Internet Freedom Foundation says it wrote to the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) asking for a list of the banned accounts and a legal justification for the bans.
In correspondence with the Foundation, the ministry says its lists are confidential.
In late April, India called on Facebook to remove posts calling for the resignation of prime minister Narendra Modi as COVID-19 cases surged. Facebook complied.
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India’s COVID-19 crisis has only deepened since: seven-day averages for new cases and deaths have currently exceed 400,000 and 3,500 respectively, and it is widely believed that official data greatly under-reports the true extent of the pandemic. ®