39 Satirical Images of Indian PM Scrubbed From Buzzfeed

Two BuzzFeed listicles poking fun at Indian prime minister Narendra Modi have been scrubbed following a 2018 legal threat.

Update, October 16, 2020: In a comment, BuzzFeed said that the most recent removals were not the result of further legal threats from Mumbai police, but the result of updates to BuzzFeed’s old content. Here is BuzzFeed’s comment:

“The removals last month did not have to do with legal threats–they are part of a broader systematic process we’ve been going through. For context, the rules around image usage on the Internet have vastly changed over time, so for the last few months we’ve been working to bring our posts from the early days of BuzzFeed up to the editorial standards of today. In certain cases, images that didn’t need to be removed have been swept up in the process, so we’ve also ended up restoring a number of images brought to our attention by former employees as improperly removed.”

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.

In case you missed it the first time:

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The offending image was originally included in a Jan. 4, 2016 BuzzFeed listicle, “18 Modi Photoshops That Should’ve Never Fucking Happened,” by BuzzFeed India contributor Imaan Sheikh. The image was removed following a legal threat from Mumbai police alleging defamation, according to a BuzzFeed spokesperson. The removal served to highlight Modi’s taste for censorship and, incidentally, his party’s poor record on gay rights.

Last month, Sheikh’s post was updated yet again, this time removing all 17 of the remaining images. Here’s a snapshot of what the article looks like now:

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Another article by Sheikh, “21 Of The Most Awkward Modi Moments Of 2015,” which documented Modi’s “social awkwardness” in 21 images, has also been scrubbed of all of its content. The article was also removed from BuzzFeed’s “BestofIndia2015” list.

A cache of the “BestofIndia2015” list shows that BuzzFeed last month scrubbed content from at least ten other articles about India.

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I’ve asked BuzzFeed for comment.

WordPress Rejects Second Legal Request to Remove Photoshopped Image Mocking Indian PM

Mumbai’s cyber police department seeks to remove content hosted on this blog, BuzzFeed, Google Blogger, Amazon CloudFront, Tumblr, and Flickr

In August, my hosting provider, WordPress, rejected a legal request by Mumbai cyber police to censor a clearly photoshopped image I republished from BuzzFeed last year.

The image, which depicted Indian prime minister Narendra Modi homoerotically embracing his right-hand man Rajnath Singh on an idyllic beach, was deleted by BuzzFeed following a legal threat from Mumbai police alleging defamation.

In case you missed it the first time:

Last week, WordPress rejected a second request by Mumbai police to remove the offending image from my blog. Here is an excerpt from that request as provided to me by Automattic, the company behind WordPress:

Subject: – Remove Photo, Preserve and Provide Details of Objectionable/morphed photo …SHO (SML 28/09/2019)

WHEREAS, Cyber Police Station, Crime Branch, C.I.D., Mumbai, has received a complaint regarding uploading of Objectionable Material by below mentioned link showing morphed/Vulgar Photos/Comments on Muslim Community gods and goddess, BJP Leaders & National Congress leader party in abusive and vulgar manner.

It is found that the suspects are posting such exclamatory and defamatory morphed/vulgar photos with the purpose to create UNREST, BREACH of PEACE which might result in LAW & ORDER problems in Maharashtra, India…

REQUIRED INFORMATION
1. Creation details -IP address with date and time.
2. Login and logout details I.P. Address with date and time from
date…
3. Address book and scraps details of the user
4. Registered Email ID used to access these URLs.
5. Registered Mobile Number of these URLs.
6. Any Other relevant Information of

Please furnish information on TOP PRIORITY BASIS so as to avoid Law and
Order problems in Maharashtra and INDIA.

Thanking in anticipation of an early response to facilitate the enquiries.

(S.S.Sahasrabudhe)
Senior Inspector of Police,
Cyber Police Station,
Crime Branch, CID, Mumbai.

Here is what a spokesperson for Automattic sent me in an e-mail:

As the request does not comply with our requirements, we will not be taking any action against your site at this time … While we may preserve information about your account, we have not turned over any information. We will not turn over any information unless we receive a valid request for the information, or a court order. If we do receive such a request, unless we are legally prohibited from doing so, we will inform you and provide you time when you may attempt to quash or legally challenge the request.

In addition to targeting content on my blog, the request also asked to remove content hosted on BuzzFeed, Google Blogger, Amazon CloudFront, Tumblr, and Flickr, including:

• This parody movie poster depicting Modi as an action hero (via Amazon CloudFront):

• This image depicting Modi as a Lion (via BuzzFeed):

• This image of Modi in a dress (via BuzzFeed):

• This image of Modi dressed as Aladdin (via BuzzFeed):

It does not appear that BuzzFeed, Amazon, Google, or Flickr have complied with the Mumbai police department’s demands. However, all the offending content hosted on Tumblr, including several anti-Islamic and pornographic images, has been deleted.

The Mumbai cyber police did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

You can read the full request via the Scribd embed below.