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'Pre-judged, Prejudiced': Govt Fumes as Twitter Labels 'Congress' Toolkit Posts' Manipulated

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The government asked Twitter to remove the tag, saying the social media platform cannot pass judgment on a matter under investigation.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has written to Twitter objecting to it tagging some of the posts an alleged Congress ‘toolkit’ against the government as ‘manipulated media’.

The government on Friday asked Twitter to remove the tag, saying the social media platform cannot pass judgment on a matter under investigation. The move comes hours after a BJP spokesperson’s tweets on an alleged Congress ‘toolkit’ on the Centre’s Covid-19 response were labelled as ‘manipulated media’ by the micro-blogging site.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT wrote “a strong communication" to Twitter registering objection to the use of ‘manipulated media’ tag on certain tweets, sources said. The communication referred to tweets by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as one “made by Indian political leaders" and went on to state that they were in “reference to a toolkit created to undermine, derail and demean the efforts of the Government against COVID19 pandemic."

The ministry asked Twitter to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tag as the matter is pending investigation before law enforcement agency. Sources said the government has also made it clear that the social media platform cannot pass judgment while the matter is under investigation. The ‘manipulated media’ tagging appeared “pre-judged, prejudiced" and a “deliberate attempt to colour the investigation" by local law enforcement agency and “influence fair investigation process", sources said, quoting from the communication.

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When contacted, a Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the issue. The sharp rebuke came after Twitter labelled as “manipulated media" a tweet by Patra on the alleged toolkit prepared by the Congress to target the Modi government on its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has asserted that investigation will determine the veracity of the content and not Twitter, and asked the microblogging platform not to interfere in the investigation process.

The Congress reportedly said the tagging had “vindicated” its stand that the “toolkit” allegations were a forgery and fraud by the BJP.

In its communication to Twitter, the ministry has stated that a complaint has already been made by one of the concerned parties before the local law enforcement agency questioning the veracity of the toolkit and the same is under investigation. While the local law enforcement agency is undertaking the investigation to determine the veracity of the ‘tookit’, Twitter has unilaterally drawn a conclusion in this matter and arbitrarily tagged it as ‘manipulated media’, government sources said. The ministry has termed such unilateral action by Twitter as an effort to influence the fair investigation process and a clear overreach, which is totally unwarranted.

Meanwhile, BJP Sources said the party IT cell was consulting legal experts over a response to Twitter’s move. “Twitter has been taking a biased stand towards the BJP and its activists for some time. We have taken it seriously. If it can tag our tweets as manipulated at the advice of the Congress party, the IT Ministry of this government, whom many call Fascist, could ask it to tag everything Rahul Gandhi posts as fake and manipulated,” a party leader reportedly told The Indian Express.

Twitter has an estimated 1.75 crore users in India, as per data cited by the government recently. Last month, Twitter and other social media platforms removed about 100 posts and URLs after the government asked them to remove content that was critical of the handling of the current medical crisis or spreading fake news around the pandemic. Twitter had also drawn flak earlier over inflammatory tweets and hashtags around farmers’ protests. Earlier this year, more than 500 accounts were suspended and access to hundreds of others in India blocked after the government ordered the microblogging platform to restrain the spread of misinformation and inflammatory content related to the farmers’ stir.

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