Kisan Ekta Morcha Was Marked Spam for Increased Activity: Facebook

“We restored the page in less than 3 hours when we became aware of the context,” a Facebook spokesperson said. 

Updated
Policy
3 min read
The Facebook page of Kisan Ekta Morcha that was being used by the farmers who are <a href="https://www.thequint.com/topic/farmers-protest">protesting</a> against the contentious farm laws, was blocked on Sunday, 20 December.
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On Sunday, 20 December, Facebook temporarily blocked the page of Kisan Ekta Morcha (KEM) for allegedly “going against” the social media platform’s “Community Standards on spam.”

The page, used by protesting farmers against the contentious farm laws, was later restored on both Facebook and Instagram following widespread outrage by social media users.

In response to a query by The Quint on why the page was marked as ‘spam’ and which specific rule it was found to have violated, Facebook stated on Monday, 21 December, that its “automated systems found an increased activity on the Facebook page” and hence flagged it as spam.

The company further added, “We restored the page in less than 3 hours when we became aware of the context.”

In an earlier statement on Sunday night, Facebook had said they had restored “Kisan Ekta Morcha’s Facebook page” and they “regret the inconvenience caused.”

In a tweet, the KEM had earlier written, “This is what they can do when people raise their voices...”. In a follow up tweet, KEM added, “Now this is #TooMuchDemocracy. A peaceful protest by Kisan and Facebook deletes @Kisanektamorcha Facebook page.(sic)”

Facebook Explains Why It Took Down Page

At 7:18 pm on Sunday, KEM’s Twitter handle published a screenshot of the Facebook page with the notification that the “page has been unpublished.”

“This is because Kisan Ekta Morcha goes against the Community Standards on spam,” the screenshot mentioned.

The Quint had reached out to Facebook with three specific queries:

  • Why the page was unpublished
  • Why was it found to be spam
  • Which specific Community Standard regarding spam the page had violated

In a detailed response, a Facebook spokesperson stated "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 3 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,” the statement added.

According to Facebook, the vast majority of its 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.” Facebook further explained, adding the company also relies on its 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 Facebook’s policies on spam, the platform “restored 74.9 mn pieces of content globally, when we identified issues ourselves.”

Backlash Against Page Takedown

The action came amidst sharp questions raised by social media users about Facebook refusing to take action against various groups in Bajrang Dal’s name, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, but unpublishing a page used by farmers to disseminate information pertaining to protesting farmers and farmer unions.

“Closing Kisan Ekta Morcha page, dedicated to India's farmers' movement, on Instagram and Facebook, and allowing the Hindu supremacist, Islamophobic violent Bajrang Dal to maintain its pages boasting of violence. That's @Facebook for you,” tweeted Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association.

Users mentioned that the protesters alleged that the action came after a live broadcast done by Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav. In the live broadcast, Yadav had said that the protesting farmers will start a day-long hunger strike on Monday at all protest sites.

At 9:45 pm, Yadav said in a tweet, “In midst of a Facebook live I was doing from Kisan Ekta Morcha's page, we get a notification that the FB page has been unpublished.”

“There must be something about farmers that this govt is particularly scared of & something about this govt that Facebook is particularly scared of (sic),” he added.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting at the Delhi borders for weeks together, demanding the Narendra Modi-led government to repeal the contentious farm laws.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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