Sikhs rally in Silicon Valley to support the protest of Indian farmers. On Thursday, protests in India reached Facebook‘s doorstep in Silicon Valley.
For weeks, thousands of people gathered around the world in solidarity with millions of farmers in India to protest against the new agricultural reforms.
Farmers fear that recent bills passed by the Indian government will reduce their incomes and benefit the private companies owned by billionaires who are seen as close to the ruling party and want to cancel them.
Dozens, mostly Sikh diaspora, who are a religious minority from the Indian state of Punjab to which most farmers belong, gathered outside the social network headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
They claim Facebook and Instagram are censoring content posted in support of Indian farmers and the Sikh community.
The protest is just one of several demonstrations around the world, including the one that closed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge last weekend.
Harjot Dhugga, a Punjabi Sikh popular influencer from Hayward, California, said he noticed a significant drop in views on his videos when he started posting about farmers’ protests.
“My average views per post was 10,000,” added Dhugga. “Now my views are low by the hundreds.”
On Wednesday, Dhugga had posted a video on his Instagram page, claiming that the platform had been reducing his reach since he broached the topic. “They censor people and prevent people from sending messages on Instagram and Facebook,” he says in the video. “Big data companies like Facebook are blocking your voices, which is sad.”
Other Sikhs said that their accounts were mysteriously closed when they published news of the protests.
This was not the first time the company was accused of censoring content supporting the Sikh community.
It was last June, hundreds of users on Twitter have complained that the hashtag #Sikh has been blocked on Facebook and Instagram for several months. He criticized prominent Sikh users, including the poet Ruby Kaur.
Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said in response to Kaur’s tweet, that he is “unsure” of how to block the hashtag #Sikh.
“It’s now unblocked on Instagram, [and] we’re working to unblock it on Facebook, and we’re investigating why this happened,” he wrote on Twitter.
A day later, Instagram said the hashtag had been blocked “by mistake” after company teams had reviewed a report “inaccurately”.
Days after farmers started protests in India, the same thing happened again almost at the end of November.
People complained about not being able to search for “#Sikh” on Facebook and Instagram. A Facebook spokesperson told Indian media that the hashtag “was temporarily blocked due to multiple reports from the community of violations of our Community Guidelines” and the ban was lifted soon after.
Facebook, in particular, has come under scrutiny after newspaper reports showed that a senior executive had protected Modi’s BJP members from Facebook’s rules on hate speech after they posted anti-Muslim videos on the platform.
Another report stated that Facebook did not remove Bajrang Dal, a Hindu nationalist organization that supports violence against religious and ethnic minorities, for fear of endangering its staff in the country and its business prospects – despite the safety team’s recommendation to remove it.