Even as Facebook faces criticism for a temporarily ban on a hashtag calling for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's resignation, the Centre has distanced itself from the situation. While Facebook claimed that the curb was unintentional, many on social media remain firmly unconvinced. Some went a step further, linking the curbs to alleged efforts of the Indian government to curb public dissent.
At present, India is firmly in the grips of a far deadlier second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. And as the medical infrastructure in various parts of the country face the possibility of being completely overwhelmed, Opposition leaders and critics have busied themselves hitting out at the Centre. This is where the recent Facebook controversy comes in. With many taking to social media platforms calling for the Prime Minister's resignation, the hashtag "Resign Modi" had suddenly become inaccessible to Facebook users.
A report by the Wall Street Journal had implied a link between the ban (which Facebook called a mistake) and the Narendra Modi-led government, prompting a stern rejoinder from the Centre. "A story by WSJ attributing removal of a certain hashtag by Facebook to GOI's efforts to curb public dissent is misleading on facts and mischievous in intent. Govt has not issued any direction to remove this hashtag. Facebook has also clarified that it was removed by mistake," the Ministry of Electronics and IT tweeted on Thursday afternoon.
Emphasising on the role the media played in influencing the public, especially in the middle of a crisis, the MeitY also contended that the publication was a repeat offender. "It is pertinent to mention that on 5th March 2021 also, WSJ had published a fake news with heading - 'India Threatens Jail for Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter Employees'. Government had sent an official rebuttal of this completely fake and manufactured story to WSJ," the official handle added.