FB blocks hashtag against PM by ‘mistake’, later restores it
Facebook, late on Wednesday, blocked a hashtag “#ResignModi” for several hours before restoring it, claiming this was done by mistake, even as the Union government issued a statement saying it had not asked for anything to be blocked by Facebook.
“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 ministry of electronics and information technology echoed Facebook, and cited a Wall Street Journal story attributing the removal of a “certain hashtag” to the government of India’s efforts to curb public dissent. It called the story “misleading on facts and mischievous in intent”. In a series of posts on the microblogging site Koo, the ministry said the government has not issued any direction to remove this hashtag. “Facebook has also clarified that it was removed by mistake,” it said. The statement went on to make claims about another story in WSJ published earlier in March.
India is in the grip of a surging second wave of Covid-19 infections, which have crossed the 350,000 daily cases mark over the past few days. The death toll has crossed 200,000, and both the Centre and the state governments have been criticised for their mismanagement of a situation that seemed in control even a month ago.
The blocking and unblocking of the hashtag came days after the Centre issued orders to take down at least 100 “inflammatory” posts and accounts across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram related to Covid-19, including a verified Facebook page of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The emergency blocking orders, under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, were issued by the ministry of electronics and information technology on Friday, and came into force on Saturday. Rights activists have accused the government of stifling critical content, while the government argued that the decision was taken to counter Covid related misinformation.