A hashtag calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefly blocked on Facebook. Facebook claims that it did that “by mistake” and not because the Indian government had requested them to do so. Users searching #ResignModi, which calls for the resignation of the Indian Prime Minister, were given a message that said such posts were “temporarily hidden here” in order to keep the community safe. As per reports, the posts were hidden for close to three hours and was restored as of 12.50pm PST. According to the reports, while Facebook hid posts containing the hashtag or text “#ResignModi” entirely in India, those in the US, Canada, or the UK could see them with a simple search.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed it had been restored after a brief outage that was accidental. "We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to,” he said.
This is the second time where voices critical of the ruling government were snubbed, especially in the middle of the crisis that has made India an epicenter of the pandemic.
Just last week, Twitter faced severe flak for deleting more than 50 posts that were critical of the government's manner of handling the Covid-19 situation in India, in response to the government's order. However, the Indian government later said that it asked Twitter to remove only those posts that were found spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 situation in India and not the ones that criticised the government’s ways of handling the pandemic.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook and Instagram had already blocked a number of posts about Modi on the orders of the government. In fact, Facebook India severely criticised when a Wall Street Journal report stated connections between a top Indian policy employee and the PM’s Bharatiya Janata Party. Facebook's India policy head Ankhi Das had to resign last year after she shared a Facebook post that called India’s Muslims a ‘degenerate community’
This is not the first time Facebook has blocked hashtags. During the US election in 2020, Facebook blocked #StopTheSteal. The hashtag for ‘Qanon’ was also blocked. However, unlike #ResignModi, the StopTheSteal and Qanon tags are still blocked, with the message citing content that goes against community standards.
Meanwhile, actress Kangana Ranaut took a jibe at trolls using the hashtag #ResignModi.
“Modi ji does not know how to lead, Kangana does not know how to act, Sachin does not know how to bat, Lata ji does not know how to sing, magar these chindi trolls know everything, please #Resign_PM_Modi ji and make one of these Vishnu avatar trolls next Prime Minister of India,” Kangana tweeted.