Facebook on Sunday evening restored the page of Kisan Ekta Morcha that has been sharing updates on the farmers’ protest against the Centre’s farm laws after having deleted it a few hours earlier. It was not immedately clear for how long the page had been taken taken.
A photo shared by the group on Twitter at 7.18 pm showed that the Facebook page had been unpublished because Kisan Ekta Morcha was against Facebook’s “community standards on spam”.
“This is what they can do when people raise their voices,” Kisan Ekta Morcha said on Twitter. “When they can’t beat us ideologically.”
Activist Yogendra Yadav said on Twitter that he had been doing a Facebook Live video transmission from the Kisan Ekta Morcha page, when the group got a notification that the page had been unpublished.
The news sparked outrage on Twitter.
“As an immediate ask and at the very least Facebook is expected to issue a detailed statement on how and why was the page of Kisan Ekta Manch unpublished,” said the Internet Freedom Foundation in a tweet. “Second, it needs to provide a public commitment for a transparent human rights review as provided in the United States.”
Just before 10 pm, social media users noted that the page had been restored. Further details about the episode are awaited.
This came at a time when questions are being raised about Facebook’s alleged bias towards the Bharatiya Janata Party. On December 14, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook did not ban Bajrang Dal from its platform due to political and business considerations, and concern for employees’ safety. Apart from Bajrang Dal, Facebook’s security team also warned against banning two other right-wing groups, Sanatan Sanstha and Sri Ram Sena, from the platform.
The Bajrang Dal is part of the Sangh Parivar, the larger family of right-wing organisations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The RSS is also the ideological mentor of India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
In August, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Facebook India’s Public Policy Director Ankhi Das opposed the idea of removing incendiary posts by BJP leaders, warning that this could hurt the company’s “commercial interests” in its biggest market, India. Das stepped down from her position on October 27.
Several other reports of Facebook favouring the BJP have also emerged. According to one such report, Facebook removed 14 of the 44 pages flagged by the BJP for being opposed to it in January 2019. In August, it had also emerged that the BJP was the top advertiser on Facebook on “social issues, elections and politics” over the previous 18 months, according to the social media platform’s advertising spending tracker information.