Facebook hides posts calling for the resignation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, marking the platform’s latest foray into a series of controversial decisions which affects freedom of expression in a country experiencing a full-blown COVID-19 crisis.
On Wednesday, the world’s largest social network said posts with the hashtag #ResignModi “are temporarily hidden here” because “content from those posts goes against our community standards.”
On Wednesday, the world’s largest social network said posts with the hashtag #ResignModi “are temporarily hidden here” because “content from those posts goes against our community standards.” Because the posts were hidden, it is unclear what content violated the rules of a company whose executives agree to express themselves openly. The ban appears to apply to both Facebook and Instagram, owned by Facebook.
Last week, the Indian government ordered Twitter to block access to more than 50 tweets criticizing Modi’s treatment of the pandemic. He Wall Street Journal he also reported that Facebook and Instagram had blocked posts about Modi by government order.
It was not immediately clear whether the Facebook ban on the hashtag #ResignModi was at the behest of the Indian government or whether it was done at the discretion of the company. According to people who shared screenshots on Twitter and in the United States, Canada and England, the hashtag was hidden in India, based on BuzzFeed News searches. In February, India enacted new regulations on social media and online videos, which give the government the ability to demand platforms like Facebook and Twitter to remove content that the government deems nasty.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone declined to comment on why the label had been hidden. A spokesman for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of India has not yet responded to a request for comment.
It looks like this is the first time Facebook has blocked requests for the resignation of a democratically elected world leader. It goes against founder Mark Zuckerberg’s stated preference to leave content whenever possible. The ban seems antithetical to the principles of a platform that was once celebrated for its role in perpetuating the Arab Spring that led to a wave of democratic uprisings that toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and the autocratic rulers of several other countries in the region.
Despite signs that normal life would return earlier this year, India is currently in control of the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, which has been increasingly criticized by its leader.
“The Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken on the difficult task of organizing a pandemic response in a poor country like India and has made it impossible,” wrote the Indian magazine The Caravan on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, cases in India plummeted and most parts of the country resumed normal life. But from March, cases increased. More than 360,000 people were reportedly infected and 3,293 died yesterday Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The crisis has pushed the country ‘s health system to the brink, with people dying in their cars trying to access Delhi hospitals. Pre-election rallies i religious meetings they have spread the virus, while the Modi government is preparing to respond. On Sunday, President Joe Biden announced it the US would be rushing supplies in the country, as well as the removal of restrictions on the export of raw materials needed to manufacture vaccines.
Facebook links with the Modi government and its Bharatiya Janata party have been subject to control since Wall Street Journal revealed in August that the company’s top employee in India protected a prominent member of the BJP and at least three other Hindu nationalists from punishment for violating the rules of Facebook’s hate speech. Employee Ankhi Das, Facebook’s director of policies for India and Central and South Asia, later he apologized i resigned after sharing a post on Facebook that he called the Muslims of India as a “degenerate community” for which “nothing matters but the purity of religion and the implementation of sharia.”
“In the context of a highly politicized environment and a continuing emergency, it’s very worrying that Facebook isn’t more transparent about this and doesn’t comment,” said evelyn douek, a professor at Harvard Law School. “It seems like this is a basic political discourse at a very critical time.”