Amid an increase in coronavirus cases, some netizens took to social media to criticise the government and ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to step down. The hashtag #ResignModi was trending on social media. Subsequently Facebook blocked posts on that hashtag, creating a controversy. Facebook issued a statement saying that it removed it by mistake. The government also issued a statement saying that reports of it ordering the removal of such posts are misleading and mischievous.
The government referred to a report on Wall Street Journal and called it misleading. "A story by Wall Street Journal attributing removal of a certain hashtag by Facebook to GOI's efforts to curb public dissent is misleading on facts and mischievous in intent. Government has not issued any direction to remove this hashtag. Facebook has also clarified that it was removed by mistake," it said in a statement.
Facebook that had blocked posts tagging #ResignModi, restored them. The social media giant said that it barred the hashtag by mistake and not on the behest of the government. Although, the company did not elaborate on the same. The error occurred not because of the hashtag but because of the content associated with it, said a spokesperson.
"We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it," a Facebook spokesperson said.
The government in its statement addressed another Wall Street Journal report from March 5. "It is pertinent to mention that on 5th March 2021 also, Wall Street Journal 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 Wall Street Journal," the statement said.
The government said that the media has a very important role to play in acting as a force multiplier of the efforts for front-line workers and medical professionals. "At a sensitive time like this, we would urge the media to partner with crores of ordinary Indians as we collectively fight the pandemic," it said.
Twitter had earlier removed 50 tweets following orders of the government to take down posts spreading misinformation. As per reports, tweets by Member of Parliament Revanth Reddy, filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das, actor Vineet Kumar Singh and West Bengal state minister Moloy Ghatak that were critical of the government were also taken down.
India is currently battling the second wave of coronavirus. As the healthcare system crumbles, people have taken to social media to seek help, especially Twitter. The social media site is replete with posts of people seeking help organising hospital beds, medical oxygen, drugs and other facilities.
On Thursday, India's recorded 3,79,257 coronavirus cases for the past 24 hours. The health ministry's latest data suggests India recorded the highest deaths of 3,645 in the same period.