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Why Facebook blocked famous poet K Satchidanandan's account: All you need to know

  • Satchidanandan was restricted from posting, liking, commenting and sharing posts for 24-hours. However, he was able to see other people's posts during the suspension period.
By | Written by Shivani Kumar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 09, 2021 11:27 AM IST

The social media giant, Facebook on Saturday temporarily suspended the official account of a famous Malayali poet K Satchidanandan who is also a former secretary of Sahitya Akademi. The account was suspended after he shared a short video mocking Bharatiya Janata Party’s loss in the recently-concluded West Bengal and Kerala assembly elections, according to a statement by Satchidanandan.

"I did not post anything abusive as pointed out by the social media giant. I received a message on WhatsApp that showed Adolf Hitler scolding his Nazi followers in his finals days and the audio accompanied it suggested that BJP leader Amit Shah was pulling up party leaders in Kerala in Malayalam over the party’s poor performance in assembly elections," he said in Thrissur.

Satchidanandan was restricted from posting, liking, commenting and sharing posts for 24-hours. However, he was able to see other people's posts during the suspension period. Meanwhile, the restriction on the 'Facebook Live' option will continue for 30 days.

Later on Saturday, Satchidanandan said, "Twelve years of poetry and protest on FB can hardly be erased by twenty-four hours of silence," in reaction to the suspension. "If the choice is between being on Facebook and being a democrat and a human rights defender, I have no doubt where I should stand," he wrote in another post on Facebook.

Courtesy: Facebook/satchidanandan
Courtesy: Facebook/satchidanandan
Courtesy: Facebook/satchidanandan
Courtesy: Facebook/satchidanandan

In the recently-held Kerala assembly elections, BJP failed to win a single seat in the 140-member Assembly. It also lost its lone assembly seat while the vote share dropped 3 per cent. Left Democratic Front (LDF) won a clear majority, bagging 99 seats.

'Attack on speech and expression'

The temporary suspension of Satchidanandan's Facebook account has drawn sharp reactions from other political leaders and writers with many slamming the central government for alleged "censorship." "Deplorable that Facebook has suspended the account of one of Kerala's greatest living poets, Satchidanandan (K. Satchidanandan, former Secy of the Sahitya Akademi), for posting a video about BJP's defeat in the Kerala Assembly elections. We must not allow censorship into our politics!" Congress leader Shashi Tharoor wrote on Twitter.

While Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader MV Jayarajan said, "In a democratic country like India it should not have happened. It is an attack on speech and expression."

Former Kerala finance minister TM Thomas Issac also extended solidarity with the writer. “It is a most deplorable act. We all stand with Satchidanandan,” tweeted Issac.

Government censorship?

This comes at a time when the Centre is battling with major criticism over its handling of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. In April last week, social media companies including Facebook and Twitter removed at least 100 posts and URLs that were critical of the government over its management of the medical crisis.

After massive outrage on social media, Twitter said that it was done in response to a legal request from the Indian government.

On April 25, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said, "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," news agency ANI reported.

The government also said that social media platforms had been asked to remove around 100 posts or URLs due to misuse and spread of fake or misleading information regarding the pandemic, as per the ANI report.

Recently, several users also pointed out that Facebook blocked posts containing the #ResignModi hashtag. Later, the company clarified that it was blocked "by mistake." “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 on Twitter on April 29.

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