The US has called on India to respect internet freedom as Indian officials blame social media as being the catalyst for violence between Muslims and northeastern communities.

India blamed several websites for stirring retaliation against northeasterners across India, causing them to flee Indian cities and leaving 80 dead. Officials claimed that sites such as Google and Facebook contain ‘inflammatory content’. Around 250 sites were blocked for carrying “fake images of violence by northeasterners against Muslims in Assam”.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday: “We are always on the side of full freedom of the internet. We also always urge the government to maintain its own commitment to human rights, fundamental freedoms, rule of law”. India’s government said it supports internet freedom but will not allow people to use social media to fuel violent acts against each other.

According to the Wall Street Journal, India also plans to censor cartoon editorials that it deems political. A number of fake Twitter accounts purporting to be from the the Prime Minister’s Office angered the government, which requested the website to block imposters. The government this week also ordered citizens to limit SMS messages to five a day to “deter the spread of rumours and hate messages.”