India asks TikTok, Facebook to remove users spreading coronavirus misinformation

This photo taken on November 21, 2019, shows the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2020

India asks TikTok, Facebook to remove users spreading coronavirus misinformation

  • TikTok said it was “actively working with the government to support” their efforts to fight misinformation
  • Facebook said it was taking “aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platforms”

NEW DELHI: India has told Facebook and Chinese video app TikTok to remove users found to be spreading misinformation about the coronavirus following concern about videos intended to mislead Muslims, according to a government source and a letter seen by Reuters.
The move follows a report by Delhi-based digital analytics firm Voyager Infosec which identified a pattern of targeted disinformation in many social media videos that appeared to be aimed at Muslims, with some using religious beliefs to justifying defiance of health adviseries over the virus.
In one video reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday, a TikTok user says he is not scared of the coronavirus because, as a Muslim, he is a follower of the Prophet Muhammad and fears only Allah.
In another, a young man throws away a face mask — of the kind being commonly used during the coronavirus outbreak — to put on a Muslim skull cap, and makes a gesture of praying.
Concerns about such content forced India’s IT ministry to write to TikTok and Facebook on April 5, the government source said. The letter, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, asks companies to remove users who are spreading misinformation and “preserve” their details for sharing with law enforcement when requested.
“You need to ensure that such rogue messages do not go viral,” said the IT ministry’s letter.
“(Such messages) have the potential for creating panic ... this effectively weakens the all-out effort being made by the Indian government for containing the coronavirus,” the letter added.
In a statement, TikTok said it was “actively working with the government to support” their efforts to fight misinformation, while proactively working toward elevating credible information related to COVID-19 on its platform.
Facebook told Reuters it was taking “aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platforms.” It said it will remove misinformation about COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, that could contribute to imminent physical harm.
“Infodemic”
The coronavirus crisis has been accompanied by what the World Health Organization has called an “infodemic” of misinformation. Globally, platforms such as Facebook have responded by barring users from posting misleading information about the coronavirus, including denials of expert guidance and encouragement of fake treatments.
India has reported 4,421 coronavirus cases and 115 deaths, and is in lockdown nationwide. The government has been issuing Twitter posts cautioning people against misinformation and debunking fake news.
India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh also raised concerns about “fake news” social media posts on Tuesday, saying its cyber cell was reviewing at least one Facebook and six TikTok videos. It gave no further details.
“We will definitely take action ... We are also sending details to the Indian government from our end,” a senior state official, Avanish Kumar Awasthi, told reporters.


Reuters TV crew hit by rubber bullets as police disperse Minneapolis protesters

Updated 31 May 2020

Reuters TV crew hit by rubber bullets as police disperse Minneapolis protesters

  • ‘A police officer that I’m filming turns around points his rubber-bullet rifle straight at me’

MINNEAPOLIS: Two members of a Reuters TV crew were hit by rubber bullets and injured in Minneapolis on Saturday night when police moved into an area occupied by about 500 protesters in the southwest of the city shortly after the 8 p.m. curfew.
Footage taken by cameraman Julio-Cesar Chavez showed a police officer aiming directly at him as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
“A police officer that I’m filming turns around points his rubber-bullet rifle straight at me,” said Chavez.
Minutes later, Chavez and Reuters security adviser Rodney Seward were struck by rubber bullets as they took cover at a nearby gas station.
On footage captured as they ran for safety, several shots are heard ringing out and Seward yells, “I’ve been hit in the face by a rubber bullet.”
Asked about the incident, Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder requested a copy of the video and made no immediate comment.
Seward is seen in later footage being treated by a medic near the scene for a deep gash under his left eye. Both men sustained injuries to their arms, and Chavez was hit in the back of the neck.
The Reuters journalists were clearly identified as members of the news media. Chavez was holding a camera and wearing his press pass around his neck. Seward was wearing a bullet proof vest with a press label attached.
The incident was the latest attack on a journalist covering the protests that have erupted around the United States after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A black CNN journalist was arrested on camera while covering the protests in Minneapolis on Friday.
A Louisville, Kentucky, television reporter yelled, “I’m getting shot” as she was seen live on camera on Friday being hit by what appeared to be a pepper ball. The Louisville Metro Police Department apologized for that incident.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, according to the New York Times, had received about 10 reports involving journalists during the recent protesting, ranging from assaults to menacing.