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Dhruv Rathee/Facebook
A crucial month.
MONTH-LONG MUZZLE

One of India’s top political YouTubers says he’s been banned from Facebook for 30 days

By Aria Thaker

This post has been updated.

A leading Indian political YouTuber says he was banned from posting to Facebook during the crucial month leading up to the country’s general election.

Dhruv Rathee, a YouTube creator who makes Hindi-language videos analysing controversial political issues, tweeted today (March 18) that Facebook banned him from posting for 30 days. The first phase of India’s election falls on April 11.

Twelve hours after he first posted about the ban, Rathee tweeted that Facebook had restored his account and removed the block, admitting its mistake.

Facebook, according to Rathee, said one of his posts had violated its community standards. The post in question, of which he tweeted a screenshot, simply consisted of pages from a biography of Adolf Hitler.

Rathee, who has 1.7 million YouTube subscribers and over 550,000 followers on his Facebook page, often makes videos critical of prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). One of his most popular videos is an interview with a former insider of the BJP’s “IT Cell,” the social-media team that has come under fire in recent years for sharing propaganda and misinformation more effectively than other parties have.

Facebook’s ban on Rathee raises questions about the social networking site’s power to censor political speech, an ability that could have critical consequences especially around election time.

“Our Community Standards the policies that set out what we do and don’t allow on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told Quartz. “Our 15,000 content reviewers based around the world review millions of pieces of content every day in over 50 languages, including many different Indian languages – and sometimes they make mistakes. In this case, our content reviewers mistakenly removed a piece of content posted by Dhruv Rathee, leading to the temporary disabling of his account. We were alerted to our error, and acted swiftly to restore Dhruv’s profile and content. We’re really sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.