A non-profit organisation called Sikhs for Justice has filed a lawsuit against social networking major Facebook for blocking its page in India, reports PCWorld. The page was blocked in early May. Sikhs for Justice primarily ran a campaign for a referendum seeking an independent Sikh country in Punjab through its Facebook page. It has also filed several petitions in Indian and US courts in regards to the 1984 riots. It’s not clear if Facebook blocked the page suo moto or under orders from the Indian government.
The PCWorld report mentions that the group has charged Facebook with entering “a pattern of civil rights violation and blatant discriminatory conduct” by blocking its page across India. Sikhs for Justice has asked the US court to grant a permanent injunction on any further blocking of its page. It has also asked for access to any correspondence Facebook might have had with the Indian government regarding this block. The group is also seeking monetary damages and other relief. A Facebook spokesperson told MediaNama that this lawsuit is without merit and that they’ll defend themselves vigorously.
Interestingly, Facebook restricted access to 5,832 pieces of content in India during the second half of 2014 (July-Dec 2014), the highest among all the countries in the world. At the time, Facebook had said that most of the blocked content was requested to be blocked primarily by law enforcement agencies and the India Computer Emergency Response Team within the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The reasons for these takedowns were vague, all “anti-religious content and hate speech that could cause unrest and disharmony” were blocked. India was also second in the world, behind the US, in terms of the total Facebook accounts for which the government had requested information during this period.
Readers will remember that in November last year, the Facebook page of the controversial ‘Kiss of Love‘ protest was blocked along with the profile pages of all 15 administrators and a related Facebook group Free Thinkers. The page was subsequently reinstated, however Facebook did not provide any information as to why the page was blocked in the first place and then later reinstated. It’s possible that Facebook reinstated this page following public outcry, which raises another question as to what about the Facebook pages that were blocked when there was no public outcry? More on this here.
On a lighter note, last year, Facebook had accidentally deleted BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s Facebook account, instead of the parody account that had irked off Swamy. Well, truth be told there wasn’t much difference between the two, in terms of content!