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.”
— Dr. Srinivas MD (@srinivasaiims) April 28, 2021
“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.
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.
A fresh wave of the coronavirus has roiled India in recent weeks, leaving hospital beds, medicines and oxygen in short supply. Crematoriums are overrun, and India has reported several days of more than 300,000 new daily infections. Many have taken to social media to seek help for their predicament, inundating services like WhatsApp and Instagram with pleas for everything from hospital beds to medicines, CT scans, doorstep Covid tests, and even food for the elderly in quarantine.
It’s also stirred public anger over the handling of the crisis. India’s government in response has ordered U.S. social-media companies to block posts, saying Covid-related misinformation risked spurring a panic and disrupting efforts to bring the pandemic under control.
Twitter Inc. has removed or restricted access to Covid-related posts over the past month. Earlier this year, the social media giant had to permanently suspend more than 500 accounts and block access to hundreds of others in India, acceding to a government order to restrain the spread of misinformation and inflammatory content related to farmers’ protests. The company has said it reviews all valid legal requests it receives under the company’s guidelines and local rules.