Facebook has temporarily hidden posts calling for the resignation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, marking the platform’s latest foray in A series of controversial decisions Impact on freedom of expression in a country plagued by the full blown COVID-19 crisis.
The world’s largest social network said Wednesday that posts with the hashtag or the text #ResignModi “are temporarily hidden here” because “some of the content in those posts goes against our community standards.” Since the posts were hidden, it is unclear what content violates the company’s rules whose executives are obligated to open expression.
After hiding the posts with the hashtag for about three hours, Facebook reversed its decision and allowed users to find and access the posts with Modi criticizing, right after this story was published.
last week, The Indian government has ordered Twitter To block access to more than 50 tweets criticizing Modi’s handling of the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal It also reported that Facebook and Instagram have blocked posts about Modi based on government orders.
It was not immediately clear whether Facebook’s hiding of the hashtag #ResignModi came at the request of the Indian government, or was it at the company’s discretion. The hashtag has been hidden within India, according to people who shared screenshots on Twitter, and in the US, Canada and England based on searches conducted by BuzzFeed News.
In February, India New regulations enacted On social media and online video, giving the government the power to require platforms like Facebook and Twitter to remove content that the government finds objectionable.
Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone declined to comment on why the hashtag was hidden, but said it was recovered everywhere after this story was posted. He refused to give more details about what happened, saying only that the company “is studying the matter.”
A spokesperson for India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It appears to be the first time that Facebook has banned or hidden calls for the resignation of a democratically elected world leader and conflicts with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s stated preference for leaving content whenever possible. The ban appears to contradict the platform’s principles that were previously celebrated for its role in perpetuating the Arab Spring that led to a wave of democratic revolutions that toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and the despotic rulers of several other countries in the region.
Despite signs that normal life will return earlier this year, India is currently in the grip of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak, which came with mounting criticism of its leader.
“The Hindu-nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the difficult task of organizing a response to the epidemic in a poor country like India and has made it impossible,” Books for India-based magazine The Caravan on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, cases in India plummeted, and most of the country had resumed normal life. But Starting in MarchCases soared. More than 360,000 people are reported to have been infected and 3,293 people died yesterday Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The crisis has pushed the nation’s healthcare system over a precipice People die in their cars trying to reach hospitals in Delhi. Pre-election rallies And the Religious gatherings The virus has spread, while the Modi government races to respond.
On Sunday, President Joe Biden announced The United States will speed up supplies To the country, as well as lifting restrictions imposed on the export of raw materials needed to make vaccines.
Facebook’s ties to the Modi government and his BJP Been checked since Wall Street Journal It was revealed in August that the company’s chief policy officer in India had protected a prominent BJP member and at least three other Hindu nationalists from punishment for violating Facebook’s hate speech rules. The employee, Ankhi Das, Director of Facebook Policies for India and South and Central Asia, later I apologise And the Resigned After sharing a Facebook post describing India’s Muslims as a “degenerate society” they are concerned only with the purity of religion and the application of Sharia.
“In the context of a highly politicized environment and an ongoing emergency, it is extremely worrying that Facebook is neither more transparent about this nor does it comment,” said Evelyn Dweck, a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “It seems that this is the main political rhetoric at a very critical time.”