Facebook temporarily hid posts calling for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s resignation over the country’s dire COVID-19 situation. Many users who used the #ResignModi in their post shared that their post had been hidden for ‘violating its community standards.’ Several users who were searching the hashtag on Facebook also saw a message that said, “Posts with #ResignModi are temporarily hidden here. Some content in those posts goes against our Community Standards.”
Later, responding to a tweet showing the hidden posts, Facebook’s Policy Communications Director Andy Stone said that Facebook had hidden the posts by mistake and is restoring them.
“We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it,” Andy Stone tweeted.
Here's more on what happened today: We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it.— Andy Stone (@andymstone) April 29, 2021
This comes days after it was reported that the Union government in India had flagged as many as 50 tweets critical of the government’s COVID-19 fight and had asked Twitter to take them down. The tweets were labelled by Twitter as ‘withheld in India owing to a legal demand.’ It was reported that a number of posts and content were flagged by the government to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other websites.
The tweets that were withheld include those by posts by Telangana MP Revanth Reddy, West Bengal Minister Moloy Ghatak, actor Vineet Kumar Singh, and two filmmakers, Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das, Medianama had reported. While Kapri confirmed the development to Medianama, user Peter Friedrich, whose tweet was also withheld, tweeted confirmation about the same.
The government had reportedly asked social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, to remove content and posts that were “spreading misinformation and public panic” around the pandemic. Twitter had said it has notified the impacted account holders of its action taken in response to a legal request from the Indian government but did not give details of the affected accounts.
India has been witnessing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, with hospitals struggling to admit patients and many of them suffering a shortage of oxygen supplies. People have been taking to social media to amplify SOS messages and to request for medicines and supplies. There have been instances where critical patients have succumbed to COVID-19 because they were not able to get treatment on time. Crematoriums are grappling with the increased number of bodies, and several visuals of serpentine queues outside crematoriums were also shared on social media.
Facebook had earlier been in controversy in India after Wall Street Journal reported last year that the company’s former public policy in India, South Asia and Central Asia, had allegedly not been implementing hate speech policies for politicians belonging to the ruling party at her behest, over hurting the company’s business prospects. After the controversy snowballed, the employee, Ankhi Das, resigned.