Government asks Twitter to remove ‘manipulated media’ tag fom tweets related to ‘Congress toolkit’

“Such tagging by Twitter appears prejudged, prejudiced and a deliberate attempt to colour the investigation by local law enforcement agency”

Hours after a tweet by BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra on the alleged ‘Congress toolkit’ was labelled as ‘manipulated media’, the Union government has asked Twitter to remove the tag for “tweets on toolkit to defame government’s COVID-19 efforts” as the matter is pending investigation before a law enforcement agency.

“The Ministry of Electronics and IT has written a strong communication to the global team of Twitter, registering its objection to the use of ‘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 the COVID-19 pandemic,” a ministry source said.

“The government has asked Twitter to remove the tags affixed prejudicially to certain tweets in recent days in the interests of fairness and equity… Investigation will determine the veracity of the content, not Twitter,” the source stated.

In the communication, the ministry pointed out that one of the parties concerned had complained to the local law enforcement agency questioning the veracity of the toolkit and the same was under investigation. It noted that even as the local law enforcement agency was undertaking the investigation, Twitter had unilaterally drawn a conclusion in this matter and arbitrarily tagged it as ‘Manipulated Media’.

“Such tagging by Twitter appears prejudged, prejudiced and a deliberate attempt to colour the investigation by the local law enforcement agency. The Ministry has termed such unilateral action by Twitter an effort to influence the fair investigation process and a clear overreach, which is totally unwarranted,” the source said.

This action not only diluted the credibility of Twitter as a neutral and unbiased platform facilitating exchange of views by users, but also put a question mark on its status as an “intermediary”, the Ministry observed.

On Thursday, the micro-blogging website flagged a May 18 tweet by Mr. Patra as ‘manipulated media’.

"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,” the tweet said. It included pictures of a document which, Mr. Patra claimed, enlisted social media measures used by the Congress to hurt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image during the second wave of the pandemic.

Twitter’s policy

As per Twitter’s policy, content may be labelled as ‘manipulated media’ or in some cases removed, if the company has a reason to believe that media, or the context in which media are presented, are “significantly and deceptively altered or manipulated”.

To access such media, the company looks at whether editing has been done in a manner that fundamentally alters the content composition, shared in a deceptive manner, and is likely to impact public safety or cause harm.

“…we may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand the media’s authenticity and to provide additional context,” Twitter had said while announcing its manipulated media policy.

The Congress, which has alleged that the documents used by Mr. Patra are fake, on Thursday written to Twitter to remove tweets by BJP leaders on the issue.

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