New Delhi: Social media giant Facebook on Thursday said it had temporarily blocked a hashtag calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation “by mistake” and that it wasn’t done on government orders.
The development comes amid reports that social media companies are being asked to remove posts that are critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“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.
According to reports, a hashtag calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefly blocked on Facebook 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”.
India is registering a record number of COVID-19 cases daily that has put extreme pressure on the healthcare infrastructure of the country.
The massive rise in infections in the second wave of the pandemic has led to hospitals in several states reeling under a severe shortage of medical oxygen and beds.
Social media timelines are filled with SOS calls with people looking for oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, plasma donors and ventilators. Organisations across the spectrum have come forward to support the fight against the COVID pandemic.
Recently, 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”.