Social media giant Facebook on Monday clarified that it temporarily blocked a page linked to the ongoing farmers’ protest because its automated system flagged it as spam due to increased activity, ANI reported.
“As per our review, our automated systems found an increased activity on Facebook page ‘Kisan Ekta Morcha’ and flagged it as spam, which violates our Community Standards,” the company said in a statement. “We restored the page in less than 3 hours when we became aware of the context.”
Facebook added that it tackles spam automatically “using recognizable patterns of problematic behaviour”. “For example, if an account is posting over and over in quick succession that’s a strong sign something is wrong,” the company said.
The Kisan Ekta Morcha has been sharing frequent updates on the farmers’ protest against the Centre’s agricultural laws. A photo shared by the group on Twitter at 7.18 pm on Sunday showed that the its page had been unpublished for violating “community standards on spam”. The move was seen by many as an attempt to silence the voices of the farmers.
Farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the agriculture laws near Delhi for 26 days amid the intensifying cold. They began a day-long relay hunger strike from Monday to step up pressure on the Centre to revoke the laws.
Facebook’s action against the Kisan Ekta Morcha came at a time when questions are being raised about its alleged bias towards the ruling 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.
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.
There have also been several other reports of Facebook favouring the BJP. One report says that 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.