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UP police files FIR against Facebook page admins for posts on Akhilesh Yadav

The FIR directed by a court points to a visible pattern of police crackdown on social media content in India.

The Uttar Pradesh Police has filed an FIR against 49 administrators of the Facebook page ‘Bua Babua’ for hosting defamatory posts against Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, LiveLaw has reported.

MediaNama reached out to the UP Police Department, but could not independently verify the development. On November 18, a court in Kannauj (a district in UP) had directed the UP Police to register an FIR in the matter, according to a copy of the judgement.

This FIR is the latest in a trend of Indian law enforcement cracking down on social media content. Users of these platforms are increasingly finding themselves criminally liable for content under laws such as sedition and defamation.

What’s the case against the Facebook page admins in UP?

  • Why was a case filed? The case was filed by an individual named Amit Kumar Yadav alleging that the Facebook page ‘Bua Babua’ makes indecent or defamatory remarks against SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, according to the court order.
  • What is Bua Babua? ‘Bua Babua’ is a page that often carries political commentary and videos criticising or poking fun at SP leader Akhilesh Yadav. The term ‘Bua Babua’ is a reference to the 2019 alliance between Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav in UP. The page is currently active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at the time of publishing this report.
  • What did the court order? The court observed that the URL and requisite details of the posts were not provided by the applicant, but the archival posts contain abusive language against the SP leader, and hence contain a cognisable offense. The court ordered the police to file an FIR and investigate the matter, a copy of the order mentions.
  • Who is accused in the FIR? The FIR initially listed Mark Zuckerberg and 49 other administrators of the group as the accused, but the Meta CEO’s name has now been dropped from the FIR, according to an India Today report.

    “During the course of investigation Zuckerberg’s name was dropped, while investigation is being carried out against the administrator of the page,” a senior district police official told PTI.

A pattern of crackdowns on social media content

Law enforcement agencies in India have increasingly been registering cases against social media users for content posted online. Here are a few recent instances:

  • Uttar Pradesh: Two men were recently arrested in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh (about 140 km east of Varanasi) for posting a video on Facebook and sharing the same on WhatsApp, with alleged derogatory remarks against the Prime Minister, UP Chief Minister, and Hindu deities.
  • Telangana: The Telangana government is keeping a close eye on social media for “rabble rousers” who are circulating or posting “inappropriate content”. Telangana Director General of Police (DGP) M Mahender Reddy warned in May this year that action will be taken against such persons “for inflaming emotions of the public”.
  • Manipur: The Manipur Police’s Additional DGP (Intelligence) issued instructions to all district Superintendents of Police (SP) in July to set up “social media cells” to monitor posts on various social media platforms and flag any “unlawful contents, communal posts, etc.”

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