Facebook Inc. FB 1.16% temporarily blocked posts containing hashtags calling on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resign, then reinstated them on Wednesday, saying the action had been taken in error.
The #ResignModi hashtag was blocked on Facebook for several hours amid national controversy over India’s response to an escalating Covid-19 crisis and the government’s efforts to curb public dissent.
Facebook declined to say what led to the action, though it has previously apologized for other hashtag removals, which can be performed either by human review teams or the company’s automated enforcement tools.
“We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.
In recent months, Mr. Modi’s government has demanded that Facebook, Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google remove content supporting farmer-led protests of an agricultural law or criticizing the government’s pandemic response.
India’s government earlier this week ordered U.S. social-media companies to block posts criticizing its handling of the exploding Covid-19 surge, sparking public anger and allegations of censorship in the world’s most populous democracy. Indian government officials said some people were using social media to create panic in society.
The companies in recent months have complied with some demands while resisting others, prompting Indian authorities to threaten to arrest individual employees of Twitter, Facebook and Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.
The Journal previously reported that Facebook had made exceptions to its policies against hate speech to avoid conflict with Mr. Modi’s political party, the BJP, and that its former Indian public-policy director, Ankhi Das, had cheered the BJP’s electoral successes and derided its political opponents.