The government has asked Twitter to remove “manipulated media” tags for tweets on an alleged “Congress toolkit” to discredit COVID-19 efforts, calling it “prejudicial, a clear overreach and unwarranted”, sources said today. The official complaint has been spurred by Twitter marking BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra’s tweet as “manipulated media”.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT, in a “strong communication” to the global team of Twitter, has objected to the use of the “manipulated media” tag on “certain tweets made by Indian political leaders with reference to a toolkit created to undermine, derail and demean the efforts of the government against COVID-19,” sources said.
Sambit Patra’s tweet on May 18, shared by several BJP leaders, had screenshots of what he called a “Congress toolkit” aimed at smearing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government’s handling of Covid.
Friends look at the #CongressToolKit in extending help to the needy during the Pandemic!
More of a PR exercise with the help of “Friendly Journalists” & “Influencers” than a soulful endeavour.
Read for yourselves the agenda of the Congress:#CongressToolKitExposedpic.twitter.com/3b7c2GN0re
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) May 18, 2021
The Congress had urged Twitter to remove tweets by Sambit Patra and other BJP leaders and suspend their accounts permanently for “spreading misinformation and unrest in society”. The opposition party had cited its police complaint against the BJP leaders for sharing what it alleged was a fake “toolkit” based on forged screenshots.
Last evening, a “Manipulated Media” tag appeared below Mr Patra’s tweet.
The government’s letter slams Twitter’s move as “pre-judged, prejudiced and a deliberate attempt to colour investigations”. The government, say sources, asserts that a complaint has already been made questioning the veracity of the “toolkit” and it is under investigation.
“The investigation will determine the veracity of the content, not Twitter. Twitter should not interfere in the investigation process. Twitter cannot pass its judgment while the matter is under investigation,” the sources said.
The government has reportedly also told the social media giant that “such content moderation by Twitter puts a question mark on its status as an intermediary and its credibility as a neutral and unbiased platform facilitating the exchange of views by users”.
While the investigation is still on, Twitter “has unilaterally drawn a conclusion in this matter and arbitrarily tagged it as ‘Manipulated Media'”, the government says.
Twitter’s “synthetic and manipulated media policy” says: “You may not deceptively promote synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm. In addition, we may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context.”
The microblogging site also says it “may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated”.
The alleged “toolkit” shared by the BJP had instructions on “cornering Narendra Modi and BJP on Covid mismanagement”.
According to screenshots amplified by many BJP leaders, the document said: “Use the phrase ‘Indian strain’ whenever talking of the new mutant. Social media volunteers may call it ‘Modi strain’.” The so-called “toolkit” also urged Congress workers to use the term “super-spreader Kumbh” and “not comment on Eid gatherings”, among other controversial pointers.
The Congress calls it a fraud and says the “AICC (All India Congress Committee) Research Department” letterhead on the documents was forged.