Mumbai Police Help Indian Prime Minister Modi Scrub BuzzFeed Of Images That Offended His Delicate Sensibilities

from the too-many-petulant-children-running-too-many-countries dept

The government of India has been a pretty active censor in recent years, blatantly ignoring the constitutional right to free speech the country's citizens are supposed to be able to enjoy. Free speech is fine, as long as it's free speech the government likes. In many cases, the likability of the speech depends on its portrayal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi doesn't like critical news coverage. Or, as in the case we're about to discuss, critical memes. And he's been using a handy excuse -- terrorism -- to shut down or severely cripple internet access for Indian residents.

The Indian government has gone extraterritorial with its censorship demands, as Shooting the Messenger reports. A 2016 BuzzFeed listicle featuring Modi-centric memes has been turned into a long string of "image removed" notices as the result of government takedown demands. The same goes for other BuzzFeed posts containing images that apparently offended the Prime Minister.

Since Feb. 2018, I’ve been documenting heavy-handed legal attempts by Mumbai police to scrub photoshopped images of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi from the Internet.

Notable examples include forcing BuzzFeed to remove a doctored image of Modi embracing his right-hand man Rajnath Singh on an idyllic beach, plus two unsuccessful attempts to remove the same image from this blog.

Here's the image Modi and the Mumbai police have unsuccessfully tried to nuke from Dean Jones' blog:

The censorship efforts were more successful elsewhere. BuzzFeed India contributor Imaan Sheikh's listicle went from a series of possibly unflattering images to this after intervention by the Mumbai police:

All 17 of the images in the post have been removed by takedown requests. This mass content nuking makes the note appended to the article back in 2018 (when the title changed from "18 Modi Photoshops That Should've Never Fucking Happened" to "17 Modi Photoshops…") hilariously inaccurate.

February 14, 2018, 5:32 AM

One image has been removed from this post.

Ahhh. Those were the days.

As Jones points out, this targeted censorship does nothing to burnish the reputation of Modi. It only serves to solidify his reputation as a thin-skinned authoritarian with an absolutely abysmal record on human rights. And the more Modi tries to censor, the more likely it is the images he's targeting will attract more attention. The Streisand Effect is also extraterritorial.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: censorship, free speech, india, mumbai police, narendra modi, photoshop modi, streisand effect, takedowns
Companies: buzzfeed

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 16 Oct 2020 @ 3:36am

    Looks like the Mumbai Police are doing their best

    to Modi-fy the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2020 @ 6:13am

    the Indian government shutdown the internet in kashmir and reduced the mobile acess speed to 2g , to reduce internet acess to muslims and other indian citizens who might want to gather and protest against the new law about indian citizenship that discriminates against muslims .
    this loss of acess resulted in 500,000 people in kashmir region losing their jobs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2020 @ 6:36am


      I'm sure this will have no adverse affects upon the businesses that rely upon the internet for their survival.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Oct 2020 @ 8:48am

    Thanks for clearing that one up you goon

    So, what I'm hearing is that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a thin-skinned tyrant who really hates free speech and the idea that people might not be gushing with praise for him due to the whole 'thin-skinned tyrant' thing.

    Yup, that's definitely more damaging to his reputation than a photoshop of him lovingly embracing one of his lackeys, something he demanded be taken down out of what I can only guess is intense jealousy that it can never happen and theirs is a love that can never be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2020 @ 12:21pm

    FACT - Modi is loved by Indians

    ... whatever clowns and libturds around the world think, nobody really cares in India!

    As to authoritarian - that label only reflects the ignorance and partisan nonsense of people who dont understand how Govt in India works or are too butt hurt to accept the reality that hundreds of millions of people voted for him and his party while his approval ratings are still very high.

    Finally, in Indian law - such sleazy cartoons or memes of public figures is totally illegal and defamatory. Free Speech as recognises in India has many stipulations and limitations. Hoaxes, untruths and patently defamatory images cannot be published either as comedy or political satire or political propaganda. If such stuff was allowed, it would be a free for all with vulgarity of every stripe leading to enormous amount of death and violence.

    If libturds are such champions of free speech publish Mohammad cartoons and show your bravery. Also, it doesnt really impact Modi or his feelings - he's been called worse and he didnt care. But people who care about him would react far more severely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Oct 2020 @ 12:57pm

      Imagine if Donald Trump got so pissy about people mocking him with bad photoshops on Twitter that he ordered Twitter to take down all those images. We’d never hear the end of it. But because a foreign leader does it, we’re supposed to ignore the fact that they’ve proven themselves to be so thin-skinned that they require the force of government to silence those who pierced said skin with bad photoshops?

      “Free speech” isn’t free if it comes with the limitation that the government may revoke your speech at any time for virtually any reason it wants. That principle applies just as much to India as it does to the United States. Believing that a leader should have the right to silence mockery of themselves makes you an apologist for fascism — and defending your apologia for tyranny makes you a fascist.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2020 @ 8:57am

    Photoshop Modi?

    Here's a photo of him NOT sexually molesting someone!!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    restless94110 (profile), 17 Oct 2020 @ 2:53pm


    Writing an article protesting/decrying what Twitter and tech police are doing in the United States (which you support)?

    Maybe the Hunter Biden files should be released in India so you would not call them "sketchy?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Oct 2020 @ 3:51pm

      Releasing the files on the computer alleged to be Hunter Biden’s in a different country wouldn’t have mattered if they were of the same sketchy origin.

      And yes, I support the right of Twitter’s higher-ups to decide what speech Twitter will and won’t host. Would you prefer to have the government compel them into hosting speech?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)


Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.