Twitter tags several tweets by BJP members as ‘manipulated media’, BJP outrage


The Indian government has expressed strong objection to Twitter for classifying certain tweets by Indian politicians as “manipulated media,” according to a notice leaked to journalists Friday.

The notice comes two days after Twitter labeled a tweet from Sambit Patra, the spokesperson of India’s ruling party BJP, as “manipulated media.”

In the tweet, Patra had claimed that Congress, the leading opposition party in India, was using a so-called “toolkit” to derail the Indian government’s efforts against the coronavirus pandemic. Alt News, a leading fact-checking organization in India, debunked Patra’s claim.

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.

In the notice, the Indian government said Twitter chose to designate tweets as “manipulated” “prejudicially” even though an investigation hadn’t been conducted, and also “asked” Twitter to remove such tags in the interest of “fairness and equity.”

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.

Twitter’s action, the Indian government said, dilutes its credibility as a “neutral and unbiased” platform as well as puts a “question mark on the status of Twitter as an ‘Intermediary.’”

“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 Jack Dorsey-led company has had to grapple with several tough situations in India this year. After briefly complying with a New Delhi order early this year, the company faced heat from the government for restoring accounts that had posted tweets critical of the Indian government’s policy or Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The two faced off again publicly last month after New Delhi ordered Twitter and Facebook to take down posts that were critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.