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Kerala CPI leader whose verified Facebook page was ‘banned’, restored days after virtual protests

Days after virtual protests were held condemning the ‘ban’ on Communist Party of India (CPI) politician Mullakkara Retnakaran’s verified Facebook page, the account has been restored. As of February 15, MediaNama was able to access the account. A NewsMinute report from February 14 evening said that the account was then suspended.

On June 10, the former minister in the Kerala government took to Facebook from his personal account to explain the issue and wherein he opined that the suspension of his verified Facebook page may be related to a post critical of the BJP government’s handling of the Covid situation in India.

In an update posted in Malayalam, loosely translated in English, Retnakaran said, “We started the page last year before lockdown started. There have been no provocative or offending posts. The posts are only commentaries on political and non-political issues. The content of the updates is moderate in nature.” Retnakaran said that posts are pushed by admins only after reading and making sure they’re alright.

“Now Facebook has banned me from posting on a verified Facebook page in my name from the beginning of this month. They say I violated their community standards. Now, if I violated community standards, the violation in question should be explained in the Page Quality category of the page. But again, that page says there is no problem with the verified page,” he said.

Retnakaran claimed that he mailed Facebook several times requesting them to revert back on their decision, but the social media platform allegedly replied to him saying that the “ban” cannot be removed. MediaNama has reached out to Facebook, and the copy will be updated when we receive a response.

“In this page, a post which can be described as critical was the one that talked about the mishandling of Covid-19 by the Central government. I don’t know whose “community standards” were violated because of that,” he said, adding that the hashtag #ModiResign was banned similarly.

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Aftermath: On June 12, the youth wing of the Communist Party of India, the All India Youth Federation criticised the suspension of Retnakaran’s accounts by organising a ‘poster march’ on the social media platform. The NewsMinute report quoted, Malayalam poet Kureepuzha Sreekumar, who inaugurated the poster march, “If a leader like Mullakkara was denied the platform to raise his voice, then what about ordinary people? I backed the protest from that realisation.”

Not just a one-off incident

An India Today report said that it was not just Retnakaran but also another CPI leader Pannyan Raveendran, a former MP, who faced similar restrictions on his account. Raveendran was quoted by India Today as saying, “The last post available on the page was on June 6. It was critical of BJP with reference to their election defeat and involvement in the hawala loot case. Since then, I haven’t been able to publish anything on my page. I usually type content and publish it on the app itself. Since June 6 none of my posts are getting published and Facebook is unable to explain what the issue is.”

In May, prominent Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan’s Facebook account was also restricted for over 24 hours, a NewsMinute report said. According to the report, the poet was not able to share a post critical of BJP post the party’s loss in the Kerala State Assembly elections.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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