Social media in India faces restrictions after Twitter and Facebook were used to spread panic

By Divya Prakash,

Last week, cities in southern India were gripped by a fear of violence. Thousands boarded trains for the north after tweets and Facebook posts warned about possible violence against northeastern Indians residing in the South.

Early last week, rumors surfaced that Assamese residents of cities like Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai faced retaliatory violence after tensions between indigenous Assamese and Muslim settlers in Assam turned violent.

In response, thousands of Assamese fled southern cities in what is being called an exodus of migrants. The number of people traveling north overwhelmed the Indian rail system.

The Indian government has blamed social media giants Facebook and Twitter for spreading mass panic. Reuters quotes a government statement which says, "A lot of inflammatory and harmful content/information has been found to be appearing on the social networking sites hosted outside the country".

Internet freedoms have become a hot topic of debate in the Indian government, which has begun blocking Twitter accounts and has also asked Google to remove certain content from its search results.

Twitter faces additional heat from the government, which says that the social media site did not appropriately aid the government in its efforts to end the chain of misinformed tweets.

The Indian government says that information it received from Facebook and YouTube traces the origin of inflammatory content to Pakistan.

The Times of India reports that Twitter does not have offices in India, but Facebook and YouTube (a subsidiary of Google) do, which makes cooperating with them much easier.

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