2021-04-30 02:25:35 Facebook Is Hiding Posts With #ResignModi

Facebook Is Hiding Posts With #ResignModi

Facebook has temporarily hidden posts calling for the resignation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the latest in a series of contentious decisions affecting free speech in a country facing a full-fledged COVID-19 crisis.

On Wednesday, the world’s largest social network announced that posts containing the hashtag or text #ResignModi “are temporarily hidden here” because “some content in those posts violates our Community Standards.” Because the posts were hidden, it is unclear what content violated the rules of a company whose executives have frequently stated their commitment to free expression.

Just after this story was published, Facebook reversed its decision to hide posts with the hashtag for about three hours and allowed users to find and access posts criticizing Modi.

“We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government requested it,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told BuzzFeed News.

The Indian government ordered Twitter to block access to more than 50 tweets criticizing Modi’s handling of the pandemic last week. The Wall Street Journal also reported that the government had ordered Facebook and Instagram to block posts about Modi.

According to screenshots shared on Twitter, the hashtag was hidden in India, as well as in the United States, Canada, and England, according to BuzzFeed News searches.

India enacted new regulations on social media and online video in February, giving the government the authority to order platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to remove content that the government deems objectionable.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in India has yet to respond to a request for comment.

This appears to be the first time Facebook has blocked or hidden calls for the resignation of a democratically elected world leader, and it contradicts CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s stated preference to leave content up whenever possible. The ban appears to be incompatible with the principles of a platform that was once lauded for its role in sustaining the Arab Spring, which resulted in a wave of democratic revolts that toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and the autocratic rulers of several other countries in the region.

Despite signs that life would return to normal earlier this year, India is currently in the grip of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak, which has prompted increasing criticism of its leader.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government has taken the difficult task of organizing a pandemic response in a poor country like India and made it impossible,” wrote Caravan, an India-based magazine, on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, India’s cases fell dramatically, and most of the country returned to normalcy. However, beginning in March, the number of reported cases increased dramatically. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, over 360,000 people were infected and 3,293 died yesterday. The crisis has pushed the country’s healthcare system to its breaking point, with people dying in their cars while attempting to reach hospitals in Delhi. As the Modi government scrambles to respond, the virus has spread through pre-election rallies and religious gatherings.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden announced that the United States would rush supplies to the country and lift restrictions on the export of raw materials used to make vaccines.

Since the Wall Street Journal revealed in August that the company’s top policy employee in India shielded a prominent BJP member and at least three other Hindu nationalists from punishment for violating Facebook’s hate speech rules, Facebook’s ties to the Modi government and his Bharatiya Janata Party have been under scrutiny. Ankhi Das, Facebook’s policy director for India, South and Central Asia, later apologized and resigned after sharing a Facebook post in which he called India’s Muslims a “degenerate community” for whom “nothing but purity of religion and Shariah implementation matter.”

“It’s very concerning that Facebook isn’t being more transparent about this and isn’t commenting in the context of a highly politicized environment and an ongoing emergency,” said Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “This appears to be a key political speech at a critical juncture.”

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Facebook Is Hiding Posts With #ResignModi