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Govt of India calls out Wall Street Journal’s mischievous attempt to portray that govt censored hashtags on social media

Wall Street Journal had written that Facebook temporarily blocked a hashtag where people had called PM Modi to resign, GoI clarified it had no role in it

Om April 29, the Government of India called out Wall Street Journal’s mischievous attempt to portray that GoI is censoring social media in the country. In a series of posts on the social media platform Twitter, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said that the report was misleading on facts and mischievous in intent.

Quoting the report of WSJ, MeitY said, “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. Govt has not issued any direction to remove this hashtag. Facebook has also clarified that it was removed by mistake.”

It further added that media played a very important role as a force multiplier to the efforts of our front-line workers and medical professionals and urged the media houses to partner with crores of ordinary Indians as the nation collectively fight the pandemic. It said, “Media has a very important role to play in acting as a force multiplier to the efforts of our 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.”

Wall Street Journal’s report suggested GoI got hashtag blocked

In its April 28 report, Wall Street Journal wrote that Facebook temporarily blocked a hashtag where people had called PM Modi to resign. Later, the hashtag was reinstated. WSJ wrote, “The #ResignModi hashtag was blocked on Facebook for several hours amid a national controversy over India’s response to an escalating Covid-19 crisis and the government’s efforts to curb public dissent.”

The report added that earlier the Modi govt had asked social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google etc to remove content.

Clarification from Facebook

Andy Stone, Policy Communications Director at Facebook, replied to a tweet and said, “We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it.” Facebook made it clear by the tweet that the Government of India had nothing to with the hashtag block on the social media platform. But the media houses picked up the WSJ report and ran it as propaganda against the Government of India.

Tweet by Andy Stone, Policy Communications Director at Facebook

WSJ’s March 2021 report against GoI

In March 2021, WSJ had published a report with the heading “India Threatens Jail for Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter Employees.” MeitY pointed out that report as well and said that it was also fake news. The ministry said, “It is pertinent to mention that on March 5, 2021, also, Wall Street Journal had published a fake news with heading- “India Threatens Jail for Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter Employees”. The Government had sent an official rebuttal of this completely fake and manufactured story to Wall Street Journal.”

GoI letter to WSJ

OpIndia got access to the letter Government of India wrote to WSJ in which Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), said that the above article was not only factually incorrect but misleading. He said that none of the government communications, either written or oral, have ever threatened employees of these social media platforms with a jail term.

He added, “Therefore, with deep regret, I wish to say that the conjecture of the Wall Street Journal is bereft of any fact and an attempt to defame the world’s largest open Internet economy which is thriving on account of the innovative spirit of Indians and universal, easy and affordable availability of the Internet.”

GoI, while replying in Parliament, said that while there was no proposal to ban Twitter, the social media platforms have to follow the regulations set by the Government. “If a few abuse social media platform to foment terrorism, violence, causes of terrorism, child pornography and a whole range of illegal activities, then the social media platforms will have to be responsible,” the Government had said.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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