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The Indian Government’s Fight Against ‘Fake News’ Targets Political Dissent

WhatsApp and Twitter are pushing back against calls to yank content and weaken encryption.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Photographer: Adnan Abidi/Reuters/Alamy

Sandeep Ravindranath, an Indian filmmaker, posted his latest work to YouTube in May. The video, a nine-minute fictional drama with no dialogue titled Anthem for Kashmir, depicts a young political activist on the lam from authorities. Indian viewers likely picked up on its numerous references to alleged extrajudicial murders in the heavily militarized province, which India and Pakistan have contested for decades.

In late June, YouTube sent Ravindranath a note saying a government entity had complained about the film. The details of the government notice were confidential, it said, but the company was taking Anthem for Kashmir offline in the country. The filmmaker wasn’t surprised. “People have been thrown into prison for just Facebook posts,” he says.