Facebook said it barred the hashtag by mistake and not at the behest of the government. The social media company did not further elaborate its response.
On Wednesday, social media giant Facebook blocked posts with the hashtag #ResignModi before restoring them hours later. This has fueled another controversy where many speculated that the action was taken by Facebook on the direction of the Indian government as India grapples with an escalating Covid crisis.
Facebook said it barred the hashtag by mistake and not at the behest of the government. The social media company did not further elaborate its response. Facebook, every now and then, blocks hashtags for a variety of reasons, some manually but many also based on automated internal guidelines. The spokesman said that the error stemmed from content associated with the label and not the hashtag itself.
The hours-long block by Facebook on the hashtag came ahead of the final phase of the West Bengal elections and effectively wiped posts calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resign. It was followed by outrage by social media users, who called out the official efforts to curb content critical of the way his government has handled the pandemic. In the new rules introduced this year for social media platforms, India established a mechanism that requires the likes of Facebook and Twitter Inc. to take down unlawful content quicker. The new rules have triggered a debate over freedom of speech in the world’s largest democracy.
“We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it,” a Facebook company spokesperson said.
The second wave of coronavirus pandemic in India has overwhelmed the health infrastructure in the country, with people scrambling to get medical oxygen and life-saving medicines for their loved ones. In many cities, people have to wait to cremate their relatives since crematoriums are running at full capacity. This has generated widespread anger against the government’s handling of the pandemic that did not foresee this crisis.
Earlier, microblogging site Twitter on Sunday deleted over 50 posts that were flagged by the Modi government for ‘disinformation’. A major chunk of the tweets taken down from public view in India contained photos, videos, highlighting the acute shortage of oxygen, bed, and criticized the government for its inept handling of the pandemic. India recorded 3,49,691 cases and 2767 deaths in the last 24 hours.