Elon Musk’s Twitter Caves to Political Pressure From Indian Government to Censor BBC Documentary

The film criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi was viewed as a ‘propaganda piece’ by country officials, and was also pulled by YouTube

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Elon Musk (Photo by Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)

A documentary produced by the BBC viewed as critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scrubbed off Twitter and YouTube after India’s officials pushed the tech companies to take it down, according to reports.

The documentary, “India: The Modi Question,” examines Modi’s part in a 2002 massacre in Gujarat, which government officials have dismissed as a “propaganda piece.” Kanchan Gupta, senior adviser to India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, referred to the film as “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage” in a stream of posts.

“Videos sharing @BBCWorld hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage, disguised as ‘documentary’, on @YouTube and tweets sharing links to the BBC documentary have been blocked under India’s sovereign laws and rules,” Gupta wrote on Twitter Saturday.

The Intercept reports that Gupta confirmed both Twitter and YouTube were “ordered to block links to the film” and have subsequently complied. His statements were echoed by Tweets from Indian users that claimed their posts with link to the film had been taken down – only to be replaced with a legal notice.

Among the voices was Indian journalist Raqib Hameed Naik, who told The Intercept “shamefully, the companies are complying with their demands and have taken down numerous videos and posts” after Indian officials “sent hundreds of requests” to social media platforms, including YouTube and Twitter, asking that any user-submitted tweets and posts featuring snippets or links be removed.

To many observers, Twitter’s decision seems to contradict Elon Musk’s self-described “free-speech absolutism” and anti-censorship stance. Before taking over the company in October, Musk had harshly criticized Twitter over what he viewed as the platform’s censorship of reporting on controversies swirling around then-VP Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.  

With Twitter’s communications department nonexistent and Musk serving as de facto spokesperson for the San Francisco-based firm that has fallen behind on rent in the UK and at home, he hasn’t addressed the latest controversy.

YouTube didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Wrap.

Opposition members of India’s parliament All India Trinamool Congress party Mahua Moitra and Derek O’Brien were dismayed at the censorship. O’Brien tweeted, “sorry, haven’t been elected to represent world’s largest democracy to accept censorship,” and added the link.

Although Moitra’s post was still up, the link was subsequently removed there and on the Internet Archive, leading the politician to repost an audio version on Telegram, while O’Brien’s post was removed altogether.