India’s government has instructed social media companies to remove any content that refers to the “Indian variant” of Covid-19.
The IT ministry said the World Health Organization (WHO) listed the variant as B.1.617 and any reference to “Indian” was false.
Geographical terms have been used to describe a number of other variants, including the UK and Brazil.
Platforms were asked to “remove all the content that names, refers to, or implies ‘Indian variant’ of coronavirus from your platform immediately”, the Press Trust of India reported.
“It has come to our knowledge that a false statement is being circulated online which implies that an ‘Indian variant’ of coronavirus is spreading across the countries. This is completely FALSE,” Agence France-Presse quoted the same letter as saying.
The note says that the World Health Organization (WHO) has “not associated the term ‘Indian variant’ with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports”.
India’s government has faced criticism over its handling of Covid-19.
It also drew anger last month after it ordered Twitter to remove posts critical of some of its actions during the pandemic.
The country has been hit hard by the new variant since late March and is now second only to the US in terms of overall infections, at more than 26 million, according to Johns Hopkins University research.
Covid-related deaths are close to 300,000, behind only the US and Brazil, although some experts believe India’s fatalities could be considerably higher.
The instruction to social media companies was carried in a government order from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Friday.