Facebook on Thursday blocked posts tagged #ResignModi before restoring them hours later, stoking a controversy that's erupted over government requests to remove social media content as India grapples with an escalating COVID crisis.
The social media platform said it barred the hashtag by mistake and not at the behest of the government, without elaborating.
Facebook periodically blocks hashtags for a variety of reasons, some manually but many also based on automated internal guidelines. The error stemmed from content associated with the label and not the hashtag itself, the spokesperson added.
The hours-long block, which came ahead of the final phase of lawmaker elections in a key state and effectively wiped posts calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resign, follows public outrage and official efforts to curb content critical of the way his government has handled the pandemic.
This year, the country established new rules that require the likes of Facebook and Twitter Inc. to take down unlawful content quicker, triggering a debate over freedom of speech in the world's largest democracy.