Facebook blocks #ResignModi posts for hours, restores it calling it a mistake

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New Delhi, April 29 (PTI): Facebook blocked posts tagged #ResignModi amid raging criticism of the government’s handling of the Covid crisis, but restored it hours later calling it a mistake.

The blocking on Wednesday, Facebook said, wasn’t at the behest of the government.

Facebook isn’t the first social media company to censure posts critical of government handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Twitter had removed or restricted access to several critical posts on orders from the government, which called it fake news.

“We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

It however did not elaborate.

In a tweet, the Ministry of Electronics and IT said: “Govt has not issued any direction to remove this hashtag. Facebook has also clarified that it was removed by mistake.”

“Media has a very important role to play in acting as a force multiplier to the efforts of our front-line workers and medical professionals. At a sensitive time like this, we would urge the media to partner with crores of ordinary Indians as we collectively fight the pandemic,” the Ministry tweeted.

According to reports, a hashtag calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was blocked on Facebook for hours on Wednesday. Users searching the hashtag were given a message that said such posts were “temporarily hidden here” because “some content in those posts goes against our Community Standards”.

Facebook periodically blocks hashtags and posts for a variety of reasons. Some of the blocks are done manually and some are automated.

The blocking of posts tagged #ResignModi came ahead of polling in the last phase of West Bengal assembly elections.

The Modi government has drawn a lot of flak in domestic and international media for handling of the second wave of Covid infections, which on Thursday crossed the 1.8-crore mark.

India reported 3,79,257 new Covid-19 cases and 3,645 new deaths – the deadliest day so far for any country hit by the pandemic.

The US government has told its citizens to leave India as soon as possible.

Social media timelines are filled with SOS calls with people looking for oxygen cylinders, medicines, hospital beds, plasma donors and ventilators. Organisations across the spectrum have come forward to support the fight against the Covid pandemic.

Just a few days back, Twitter and other social media platforms removed about 100 posts and URLs after the government asked them to remove content that was critical of the handling of the current medical crisis or spreading fake news around the pandemic.

Reports citing Lumen database, an independent research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content, suggested that more than 50 posts – including those by a Member of Parliament, MLA and filmmakers – were removed by Twitter on government request.

Government sources had said the social media platforms were asked to remove the posts and URLs (uniform resource locators) to “prevent obstructions in the fight against the pandemic” and disruption of public order due to the said posts.

They had added that the order was issued in view of the misuse of social media platforms by certain users to spread fake or misleading information and create panic about the pandemic in the society “by using unrelated, old and out of the context images or visuals, communally sensitive posts and misinformation about Covid-19 protocols”.

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