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thumb-2023-09-07-facebook-canada-india This article is more than 9 months old
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Facebook is Blocking Canadians’ Posts About the Assassination of a BC Sikh Leader. Their Posts Were Targeted by India’s Government.

Canadian Sikh Facebook users receive notifications that their posts are being taken down because they’re in violation of Indian law

Canadian Sikh Facebook users posting about the assassination of a Sikh community leader are seeing posts disappear and accounts suspended in response to legal demands by the Indian government.

Many Facebook posts and pages that have been flagged as being in violation of Indian law involve content relating to the legacy of Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader who was assassinated outside of a Surrey gurdwara in June of this year.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons that Canadian intelligence was pursuing “credible allegations” that “agents of the Government of India” had assassinated Nijjar in Surrey, BC this summer.

“Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

Since Nijjar’s assassination in June, a number of Canadian Sikh Facebook users say their posts about the community leader have been censored or unpublished by Meta following interventions by the Indian government.

BC Sikhs, a Facebook page that represents British Columbia’s Sikh community, currently remains “unpublished” after admins received a notice that the page was removed for failing to follow Meta’s standards on “dangerous individuals and organizations.”

“Your page has been unpublished,” reads a notice sent to BC Sikhs that was reviewed by PressProgress. “This is because BC Sikhs goes against our Community Standards on dangerous individuals and organizations.”

BC Sikhs (Facebook)

Certain posts were also flagged or taken down, requiring the BC Sikhs account to appeal Facebook’s decision.

One Facebook post which was restricted includes a photo of an event promoting a discussion on “the legacy of Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar.”

BC Sikhs was notified that “access to (their) photo has been restricted due to a legal request.”

“Access to your photo has been restricted within India because Facebook has been notified by the authorities under an emergency order pursuant to Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000,” the notice states.

“If you have any questions, please contact the appropriate authorities for further information.”

BC Sikhs (Facebook)

The Information Technology Act in India allows the government to block content “in the interests of the defence, sovereignty, integrity, or security of India or its relations with foreign states, public order, or the incitement of a cognisable offence relating to these categories.”

Other Sikh Facebook users based in Canada have reported similar experiences.

Sarbraj Singh Kahlon, a Vancouver journalist with Radio Punjab, told PressProgress his Facebook account was restricted after he posted about protests about Nijjar’s assassination at the Indian Consulate in Vancouver and posts commemorating the anniversary of his death.

Meta did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PressProgress, but did request additional time to look into the matter.

After PressProgress brought the issue to Meta’s attention, BC Sikhs said their appeals were suddenly reversed and their page and posts were restored.

“We found that our review team made a mistake taking your post down,” read an updated notice sent September 17. “Our priority is keeping the community safe and respectful, so sometimes we have to take precautions.”

BC Sikhs (Facebook)

“The BC Sikhs social media pages have been an active community news and events outlet for almost 20 years,” an admin for the BC Sikh’s Facebook page told PressProgress.

“The recent restriction of our content, and unpublishing of our Facebook page, is a result of direct interference by Indian intelligence agencies.”

The group said “decades of India’s interference in Canadian politics has to end here.”

In a statement to PressProgress, the World Sikh Organization also accused India of foreign interference by targeting members of Canada’s Sikh diaspora who are critical of the Indian government.

“The Prime Minister of Canada has publicly said what Sikhs in Canada have known for decades- India actively targets Sikhs in Canada,” World Sikh Organization President Tejinder Singh Sidhu said in a statement.

“India cannot be allowed to disregard the rule of law and the sovereignty of foreign states. The Sikh community will not be intimidated or frightened by the actions of the Government of India.”

The Canadian government announced an inquiry into foreign interference earlier this year, with a preliminary report to be tabled in February.

The inquiry’s terms of reference do not mention India by name, but states that “the commissioner will examine and assess interference by China, Russia and other foreign states or non-state actors.”

 


 

UPDATE: The BC Sikhs’s Facebook page has been blocked by Facebook since August. Three days after PressProgress published this story, the BC Sikhs Facebook page administrator received an email from Facebook indicating that after “reviewing your appeal, your page BC Sikhs has been published.”

“This means it can now be viewed publicly,” said the email signed by “the Facebook team.”

Email from Facebook to BC Sikhs

 

 

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Rumneek Johal
Reporter
Rumneek Johal is PressProgress' BC Reporter. Her reporting focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism.

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