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Facebook blocked hashtag calling for Narendra Modi to resign over pandemic

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

A hashtag calling for the resignation of the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, was briefly blocked on Facebook on Wednesday, hiding more than 12,000 posts critical of the Indian government as the coronavirus pandemic spirals out of control in the country.

Facebook users based in India noted on Twitter that the hashtag #ResignModi had been blocked from view on Facebook.

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”.

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As of 12.50pm PST, the hashtag was again accessible on Facebook from the US, and 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, and have since restored it,” the spokesperson said.

The blocking of the #ResignModi hashtag comes after Twitter faced criticism for deleting more than 50 tweets critical of the Indian administration’s handling of the pandemic after a legal request by the Indian government. Facebook and Instagram had already blocked a number of posts about Modi on the orders of the government, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook India has previously faced criticism after a Wall Street Journal report in August revealed connections between a top Indian policy employee and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party. That employee resigned after sharing a Facebook post that called India’s Muslims a “degenerate community” for whom “nothing except purity of religion and implementation of Shariah matter”.

The now-reinstated Facebook hashtag #ResignModi currently shows the horrors of the coronavirus pandemic in India, where hospitals are overflowing with dead and dying victims. The country is experiencing an unprecedented surge at 360,000 new coronavirus cases a day and an insufficient number of hospital beds to treat patients.

The US has promised to “rapidly deploy” aid to healthcare workers in India, and vaccine manufacturing in the country has been diverted from exporting doses to internally distributing doses in an attempt to address the catastrophe.