February was an eventful month to say the least, in terms of social media and internet. The month commenced with a controversy related to the farmers protest and ended with a rule being passed to regulate social media, OTT platforms and digital news. To truly ascertain what the implications of these events will be, is something we will have to wait and see.
But good news – Ajith Kumar fans may be receiving updates about the actor’s upcoming film, Valimai, in the near future. Maybe.
Here’s a look at the top social media moments of February:
Greta Thunberg and Rihanna are anti-nationals?
The month started with the country erupting over Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg and pop-star Rihanna speaking in support of the ongoing farmers protest. Following suit, many others, including former adult film actor Mia Khalifa, YouTuber Amanda Cerny, author Meena Harris tweeted in favour of the farmers.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) February 2, 2021
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 2, 2021
It’s no coincidence that the world’s oldest democracy was attacked not even a month ago, and as we speak, the most populous democracy is under assault. This is related. We ALL should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters. https://t.co/yIvCWYQDD1 pic.twitter.com/DxWWhkemxW
— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) February 2, 2021
Soon after, the Ministry of External Affairs’ issued a notice stating that some “vested interest groups” who had “enforced their (farmers’) agenda” and “derailed” them that led to the Republic Day violence in New Delhi were trying to “mobilise international support against India”.
— Anurag Srivastava (@MEAIndia) February 3, 2021
Several Indian celebrities, including renowned singer Lata Mangeshkar, former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, actors Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, and Paresh Rawal, picked the government’s side on Twitter and shared the MEA’s notice.
India’s sovereignty cannot be compromised. External forces can be spectators but not participants.
Indians know India and should decide for India. Let’s remain united as a nation.#IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) February 3, 2021
Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let’s support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences. 🙏🏻#IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda https://t.co/LgAn6tIwWp
— Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar) February 3, 2021
These celebrities actions were slammed by netizens, who called them spineless for not standing up to the government. Following Tendulkar’s tweet, fans trended hashtags #ShameOnSachinTendulkar on Twitter and apologised to tennis player Maria Sharapova for criticising her in 2014 when she said that she wasn’t aware of who the cricketer was.
Sachin fans from Kerala visit Maria Sharapova’s facebook page to say sorry for abusing her 7 years ago.. 🙆🏾♂️ pic.twitter.com/tNCCQWnXMQ
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) February 4, 2021
On the other hand, celebrities, including Kunal Kamra, Vir Das, Sahil Shah and Taapsee Pannu slammed those who criticised the international voices supporting the farmers.
If one tweet rattles your unity, one joke rattles your faith or one show rattles your religious belief then it’s you who has to work on strengthening your value system not become ‘propaganda teacher’ for others.
— taapsee pannu (@taapsee) February 4, 2021
Maanaadu a rip off of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet?
On the occasion of actor Silambarasan‘s birthday on February 3, the teaser of his upcoming film, Maanaadu, was released. While the teaser was received well by his fans, many took to social media to point out the similarities between the video clip and director Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Social media users felt that the same concept was shown in Tenet.
#Maanaadu teaser felt like a tamil version of TENET !
— I R F A N Z A I N I (@iam_Irfun) February 3, 2021
— Vaitheeswaran Balasubramanian (@vaithee888) February 3, 2021
In response, Maanaadu director Venkat Prabhu tweeted that he was honoured that his film was being compared to Tenet. He also announced that the films were not connected.
I am very honored that people are comparing our #maanaaduteaser with #tenet but unfortunately this ain’t connected with it!To be honest even I didn’t understand #tenet 😁 wait for our trailer!Then u might compare us with some other film!! ;)) #aVPpolitics https://t.co/Xle3hiWh6Q
— venkat prabhu (@vp_offl) February 5, 2021
Safe to go to the movies now?
While there have been a consistent flow of film-release-date announcements over the past few months, many filmmakers announced the release dates for their films in February.
Yash Raj Films announced its slate of movies for 2021, while several films like Akshay Kumar‘s Atrangi Re, Bell Bottom, Ranveer Singh’s 83, Sidharth Malhotra‘s Shershaah announced their release dates.
— Yash Raj Films (@yrf) February 17, 2021
This move, however, was criticised by several including producer Ronnie Screwvala and filmmaker Hansal Mehta. While Screwvala observed that it was funny how release dates were being announced as if the situation has gone back to normal, Mehta wondered what prompted the sudden overflow of announcements.
I agree. Wonder what prompted this spate of announcements? https://t.co/NodP48bXLD
— Hansal Mehta (@mehtahansal) February 21, 2021
Case filed against Barkha Dutt’s Mojo Story
On February 21, the Unnao Police registered cases against several Twitter handles for spreading “false information” of the three Dalit minor girls being raped and that the police wanting an early cremation against the family’s will. Amongst the several Twitter handles, an FIR was also filed against senior journalist Barkha Dutt’s digital news portal Mojo Story.
In response to @unnaopolice FIR for our reportage of the Unnao murders-this is a blatant case of harassment and intimidation. Arun Agarwal, a local stringer sent us initial inputs, later we had a Delhi correspondent on ground, as well.
— Mojo Story (@themojostory) February 21, 2021
DigiPub News India Foundation, an association comprising several news organisations that intend to “help ensure the creation of a healthy and robust news ecosystem for the digital age, slammed the move and called it an “example of muzzling of journalism”.
DIGIPUB News India Foundation strongly condemns the FIR against @BDUTT‘s @themojostory in connection to the #Unnao deaths. It is a clear example of the muzzling of journalism by the state. pic.twitter.com/8uQfrTn3E7
— DIGIPUB News India Foundation (@DigipubIndia) February 22, 2021
Some hope for Ajith fans
After hassling England cricketer Moeen Ali and Indian cricketer Ravichandra Ashwin for Valimai updates during the India vs England match in Chennai, Ajith fans finally received an update from the makers of the film. Sort of.
After videos of some fans asking for updates on Valimai during Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami’s campaign went viral, the film’s producer Boney Kapoor asked fans on social media to be patient. He also promised that they were working on the film’s first look, which will release soon.
— Boney Kapoor (@BoneyKapoor) February 15, 2021
Ajith also issued a statement expressing his disappointment over his fans’ actions. He said, “Cinema is just entertainment for you. But for me it is my profession. My decisions depend on my work and social welfare. Our respect in this society is decided by our actions.”
— Suresh Chandra (@SureshChandraa) February 15, 2021
Central government issues guidelines for social media
The Centre issued the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 on February 25 directed towards regulating content of social media and OTT platforms.
The rules are to follow a “soft-touch oversight mechanism”. According to the government, social media companies will have to take responsibility for their actions, and should establish a “robust grievance redressal mechanism” that will “empower” the users and the social media intermediaries. A grievance officer has to be appointed to deal with complaints and resolve them within 15 days from its receipt.
The Ethics Code relating to digital media and OTT platforms will follow a “self-regulatory mechanism”. OTT and digital news media platforms will have to “disclose their activities, from where they are publishing, how they publish, how much they are publishing, anything”.