#ResignModi: All you need to know about the social media row
Hours after blocking posts containing ‘#Resign Modi’ hashtag, Facebook on Thursday claimed it was an inadvertent error and not done at the behest of the government.
The social media company drew flak for censoring calls on the platform for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s resignation over the spiraling crisis of coronavirus pandemic in India.
“We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said in a tweet on Thursday.
The blocking and unblocking of the posts came days after the Centre issued orders to take down over 100 “inflammatory” posts and accounts across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram related to Covid-19, including a verified Facebook page affiliated to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The Wall Street Journal first reported about the blocking of the posts with the hashtag, while BuzzFeed News later pointed out that Facebook hid posts containing the hashtag or text “#ResignModi” entirely in India.
Facebook told users that posts that included #ResignModi were “temporarily hidden” because “some content in those posts goes against our Community Standards.”
According to BuzzFeed News, the people in India could not view these posts even as those in the US, Canada or the UK could see them with a simple search. The posts remained hidden for about three hours, but after the first report on this was out, Facebook allowed these posts to be seen in India, backtracking its previous decision related to community guideline violations.
“Because the posts were hidden, it’s unclear what content violated the rules of a company whose executives have often expressed a commitment to open expression,” the report read.
According to reports, soon after the BuzzFeed story was published, Facebook reversed its decision and allowed the users to find and access posts with the hashtag after hiding them for a few hours.
Facebook’s move attracted the attention of the international media and several journalists took to Twitter to post about it.
Olivia Solon, the editor of tech investigations at NBC News, posted from her verified handle that Facebook was censoring posts critical of PM Modi.
In response, Facebook’s Andy Stone said, “This hashtag has been restored and we are looking into what happened.”
Indian journalist Shivam Vij also posted on Twitter a screenshot of the Facebook page notifying blocking of the hashtag. “This is what happens when you search for the hashtag #ResignModi on Facebook (at least in India),” he wrote.
The Centre has called out the report published on Wall Street Journal and called it "misleading on facts and mischievous in intent."
The Union ministry of electronics and information technology shared a statement on the Koo app saying, "A story by Wall Street Journal attributing removal of a certain hashtag by Facebook to GOI‘s efforts to curb public dissent is misleading on facts and mischievous in intent. Govt has not issued any direction to remove this hashtag. Facebook has also clarified that it was removed by mistake."
Last week, after Twitter took down dozens of tweets that were critical of the Centre’s handling of the pandemic, sources from the ministry of electronics and information technology clarified that the government welcomes criticism and genuine requests for help amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is necessary to take action against users who misuse social media to spread panic and misinformation.
India on Thursday saw a record single-day rise of 379,257 coronavirus cases, which pushed the total tally to 18,376,524, while the daily death toll crossed 3,645, according to the data uploaded by Union ministry of health and family welfare.