Facebook Restricts More Content in India Than Anywhere Else

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, left, spoke with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Menlo Park, Calif., Sept. 27, 2015. 

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Facebook blocked more items of content from its platforms in India than any other country in the first six months of this year, following requests from the South Asian nation’s government.

The world’s largest social network said Wednesday in its latest report on government data requests that from January to June this year, it granted requests from authorities in India for some 15,155 pieces of content to be blocked on the platform, its WhatsApp and Messenger apps and its photo-sharing app, Instagram.

That was more than triple the 4,960 items that were restricted in India during the same period last year, and accounted for some 73.7% of the more than 20,000 pieces of content restricted worldwide at the behest of 92 countries.


The requests to block the material in India were made “under local laws prohibiting criticism of a religion or the state,” Facebook said in the report. “We are not in a position to speculate on the reason for any increases or decreases in a particular country,” a Facebook spokeswoman said when asked about the increase.

An official at India’s Information Technology Ministry couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Turkey had the second-highest number of content restrictions, up 58% to 4,496 from a year earlier. France was in third, with 295 requests, up from 22 last year.

Meanwhile, Facebook said the U.S. topped the list of nations requesting user data. It logged 17,577 requests in the first half of 2015, up from 15,433 a year earlier. India was second with 5,115, up from 4,559 last year.

India is a key market for Facebook, the social network has 130 million monthly users there, second only to the U.S. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company is also eager to tap the country as a source for future growth.

Shut out of China, Facebook wants to connect more people in developing countries as Internet access and low-cost smartphones proliferate.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke at a town hall meeting in India last month, his second visit to the country in the past 12 months. “If you have a mission of connecting everyone in the world, you can’t do that without connecting India,” he said.

The social-networking site is popular among celebrities and politicians in India,including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who regularly posts material to his page, which is “liked” by more than 30 million people.