For just over a week, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has demanded online platforms remove links to a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which explores his role in communal violence in Gujarat in 2002. The takedowns have been an alarming demonstration of the powers of the country’s recent IT law, which grants new powers to suppress content that “threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India.”

But not all the takedowns of the documentary are related to the Indian government’s request. The BBC has issued its own series of takedowns on copyright grounds, which have gone largely unreported. To outside observers, those takedowns may have appeared to be the result of pressure from the Indian government.

Reached by Rest of World, Facebook’s parent company Meta identified takedown notices from the BBC, rather than a request from the Indian government, as the reason for removing the documentary from the platform. “The content was removed due to copyright claims by the rights holder,” a Meta representative said. 

The BBC confirmed that it has issued copyright takedowns to multiple platforms hosting unauthorized copies of the documentary. “We have asked websites and other file-sharing platforms identified as currently hosting the content (either the full episode or significant parts of) to remove it for copyright reasons,” a representative said. 

“The content was removed due to copyright claims by the rights holder,” a Meta representative said. 

Per the representative, the only online access authorized by the BBC is through its iPlayer service, which is restricted to users within the United Kingdom.

The BBC did not name specific platforms that have received takedown notices, but the list may include the Internet Archive, which hosted a mirrored version of the documentary earlier this week. The mirrored version was removed sometime before Thursday morning. YouTube had previously confirmed to CNN’s Oliver Darcy that it removed some copies of the documentary at the request of the BBC. Neither YouTube nor the Internet Archive responded to Rest of World’s request for comment.

The first episode of the documentary examines Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, during which he served as chief minister of the province. The riots, which left more than 1,000 people dead, have been described as an act of ethnic cleansing against the region’s Muslim population. India’s supreme court cleared Modi of legal responsibility for the violence in 2012. The court cleared Modi of any wrongdoing again last year, dismissing a petition filed in 2018. But his actions as chief minister at the time remain both controversial and politically sensitive.

Titled The Modi Question, the BBC’s documentary unearths few new claims about the riots but affirms many alarming aspects of the violence and has been vociferously denounced by government officials as a result. On Saturday, a senior adviser to India’s broadcasting ministry called the film “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage, disguised as ‘documentary.’” The ministry issued official takedown notices to Twitter shortly afterward. As a result of the alarming public statements, many takedowns related to the documentary have been treated as the direct result of Indian government action.

Taking place alongside the public denunciations from Indian officials, BBC copyright claims may have unintentionally bolstered the apparent impact of India’s censorship orders. Services like YouTube and Facebook typically respond to rights holder claims quickly and apply takedowns across their entire platform. But it’s rare for a political censorship claim to receive the same treatment, even if it’s backed up by national law.

On a podcast this week, former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos expressed particular surprise that the takedowns were not restricted to users with Indian IP addresses. “Often when companies have complied [with censorship orders], they’ve tried to comply in a way that is minimally impactful,” Stamos said, “and to resist until you’re absolutely forced to.” He later characterized the move as “a major departure from the unwritten policy of major U.S. platforms to resist censorship requests.”

The copyright claims do not explain Twitter’s broad compliance with the Indian orders. The BBC explicitly denied sending any takedown requests to Twitter, and a report with the Lumen database confirms that at least 50 tweets were removed at the direct request of the Indian government. Those tweets include two posts by the actor John Cusack, which caught the attention of Western audiences when removed earlier this week.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.