Facebook's Defence As Farmers' Protest Page Was Briefly Taken Down

Facebook had taken down community pages of Kisan Ekta Morcha for around three hours on Sunday, sparking widespread criticism over what farmers said was an attempt to muzzle their voices.

Kisan Ekta Morcha's Facebook accounts were blocked for three hours on Sunday.

New Delhi:

Facebook today clarified that an error on its part caused the blocking of the accounts used by farmers protesting against the government's new agricultural laws on Sunday. The social networking site said its automated systems flagged the pages of Kisan Ekta Morcha as "spam" following increased activity, although the group's Instagram account (owned by Facebook) remained unaffected.

"As per our review, our automated systems found an increased activity on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/kisanektamorcha and flagged it as spam, which violates our Community Standards. We restored the page in less than three hours when we became aware of the context. The review showed that only the Facebook page was affected by the automated systems while the Instagram account remained unaffected," Facebook said in a statement.

The company added that while it relies on automated systems to detect spams, it also uses human expertise to understand the context behind increased activity on a page. "The vast majority of our work fighting spam is done 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. However, we also rely on our human review team to work on cases where human expertise is needed to understand the context of a particular situation. In Q3, 2020 out of the 1.9 billion pieces of content removed globally for violating our policies on spam, we restored 74.9 million pieces of content globally, when we identified issues ourselves," said a Facebook company spokesperson

Facebook had taken down community pages of Kisan Ekta Morcha for around three hours on Sunday, sparking widespread criticism over what farmers said was an attempt to muzzle their voices.

According to the demonstrating groups, the curbs came just after a live broadcast by Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav, who is one of the leaders of the protest, where he announced that the farmers will take part in an indefinite, relay hunger strike that began today.

Kisan Ekta Morcha is one of the biggest pages being used for the movement. It's Instagram page has gained over 50,000 new subscribers over the weekend and nearly doubled its follower count, according to web analytics. The movement's official YouTube channel, meanwhile, gained an additional 3,95,000 subscribers.

Thousands of farmers have been camping on the borders of New Delhi for over three weeks, demanding the central government roll back the reforms intended to bring investment in the antiquated farm sector but which the farmers say will leave them at the mercy of big corporations.

The protesters, led by around 40 unions, have repeatedly rebuffed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers' attempts to reach a compromise, in what has become the biggest challenge from the country's farmers in his six-year rule.