In what is among the first two takedowns by YouTube during Lok Sabha polls on the Election Commission’s request, the social media platform has removed an audio clip of the BJP candidate from Araria in Bihar for being communally divisive.
In the clip, the candidate and former MP Pradeep Kumar Singh is heard instructing a worker “to take 15 to 20 motorcycles”. He is then heard saying that they have to save the Hindu religion and that they cannot let Araria become another Pakistan. “We will not let the country break. You watch the Yadav vote,” Singh says in the audio clip.
The above recording titled “Araria | BJP Pradeep Sinha’s controversial viral audio” was taken down after Bihar’s Joint Chief Electoral Officer Pravin Kumar Gupta wrote a letter to Google’s grievance redressal officer on April 12. Gupta requested removal on the ground that the clip violated The Representation of the People Act by “outraging religious feelings and promoting enmity between different classes of people”.
While the link provided by EC was taken down, the video with the audio clip was published by other accounts on the platform.
YouTube declined to comment on Thursday.
This is the first Lok Sabha election in which the EC is coordinating with social media platforms to ensure a level-playing field for candidates and parties in the online space. In March, the poll panel and the industry body representing the platforms (Internet and Mobile Association of India) enacted a “Voluntary Code of Ethics” for the Lok Sabha polls, under which the latter agreed to process valid legal orders from the EC within three hours. The takedown of the YouTube video is part of this arrangement.
Since March 10, Facebook has removed 574 posts, of which 34 were due to hate speech or public morality and decency, upon EC’s orders. Twitter has removed 49, of which two involved hate speech. WhatsApp has removed three user accounts, two of them because of hate speech. Most takedowns involved silence period violations, and many of the Facebook requests involved voter suppression violations and discussed EVMs and the Indian Army.