Facebook Inc. has said it blocked posts mentioning #ResignModi by mistake and not on the behest of the government. Facebook has blocked posts with tags calling PM Modi to resign, before restoring them hours later, sparking a controversy that erupted over government requests to remove social media content as India witnesses the unprecedented second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
Facebook temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked it to, and have since restored it, a Facebook company spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also said that the social media giant periodically blocks hashtags for a variety of reasons, some manually but many also based on automated internal guidelines. The error stemmed from content associated with the label and not the hashtag itself.
The hours long block followed the public anger and the efforts to curb content critical of the way his government has handled the pandemic. This year, the country established new rules that require social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter Inc. to take down unlawful content quicker, triggering a debate over freedom of speech in the world’s largest democracy.
A fresh wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has roiled India in recent weeks, leaving Indian healthcare system in splits with hospital beds, medicines and oxygen in short supply. Crematoriums are overrun, and India has been reporting more than 300,000 new daily infections from several days. Many have taken to WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram to seek help with pleas listing hospital beds to medicines, CT scans, doorstep Covid tests, and even food for the elderly in quarantine.
In a record single-day spike, a total of 3,79,257 people tested positive for Covid-19 in last 24 hours, taking the total Covid tally of India to 1.83 crore cases. The death toll has crossed two lakh following 3,645 fresh fatalities. The death toll stands at over 2.04 lakh.
It’s also stirred public anger over the handling of the crisis. India’s government in response has ordered U.S. social-media companies to block posts, saying Covid-related misinformation risked spurring a panic and disrupting efforts to bring the pandemic under control.