Facebook temporarily blocked netizens from viewing posts calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India as a COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak devastates the nation.
Netizens were stunned to find content containing the hashtag #ResignModi were hidden from view for three hours on Wednesday, days after Modi ordered social networks to remove a selection of posts spreading misinformation about the pandemic. Some of those posts, though, looked a lot like criticism of the Indian government and its pisspoor handling of the virus crisis.
The Facebook posts hidden for using #ResignModi were today flagged as breaking the platform’s “community standards” rules. Andy Stone, a policy communications manager at Facebook, said that content has since been returned to view:
This hashtag has been restored and we are looking into what happened.— Andy Stone (@andymstone) April 28, 2021
It’s not clear why exactly the #ResignModi posts were censored, and whether this was the result of New Delhi's earlier demand to remove pandemic-related messages. Facebook PR told BuzzFeed: "We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it." Facebook declined to comment further when we reached out.
India has been struck by a huge uptick in COVID-19 infections; there are about three million active recorded cases and more than 3,000 officially COVID-linked deaths in the past 24 hours alone, according to the nation's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Citizens have taken to the internet to slam Modi’s leadership during the pandemic. In return, Modi attempted to clamp down on tweets and Facebook and Instagram content from rival politicians. Some of the posts were censored for netizens in India yet remained visible for twits outside the country.
Facebook also reported its Q1 2021 financial figures on Thursday. It beat Wall Street's expectations, and banked $26bn in revenues, up 48 per cent year-on-year, and $9.5bn in profit, up 94 per cent. Its stock was up just over six per cent in after-hours trading. ®