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Twitter Flags BJP Spokesperson Sambit Patra's Congress 'Toolkit' Post as 'Manipulated Media'

© AFP 2023 / DENIS CHARLETA picture taken on September 4, 2019 shows the logo of the US social networking website Twitter, displayed on a smart-phone screen, in Lille, northern France.
A picture taken on September 4, 2019 shows the logo of the US social networking website Twitter, displayed on a smart-phone screen, in Lille, northern France.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.05.2021
On 18 May, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Sambit Patra shared a tweet containing screenshots of a document allegedly circulated by the Congress party. Patra claimed it was a “toolkit” to malign Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Twitter has flagged a tweet by Sambit Patra, a spokesperson for India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as "manipulated media". The label was slapped a day after a formal complaint was made by India’s main opposition party Congress to the micro-blogging site.

Congress called the tweet in question, as well as subsequent tweets by BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda, Union Minister Smriti Irani, and BJP politician B.L. Santosh, fabricated and an attempt to spread misinformation.

Twitter in its policy section says, “…we may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated. In addition, you may not share deceptively altered media on Twitter in ways that mislead or deceive people about the media’s authenticity where threats to physical safety or other serious harm may result”.

In the post on 18 May, BJP spokesperson Patra claimed that the screenshots of the document tagged in his post were Congress' "toolkit" on COVID-19 to help foreign media come up with anti-India stories.

The tweet now carries a warning that it is “manipulated media” for all users who try to forward, like, or retweet the post.

The Congress party also demanded that the accounts of these BJP leaders be suspended.

Following Twitter's action, Rohan Dua, social media cell head of Congress, stated that, “We had promised to expose the lie before the country and we stand vindicated”.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has reacted sharply to the micro-blogging site describing Patra's comment as "manipulated media".

The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has stated that a complaint has already been filed before a local law enforcement agency questioning the veracity of the "toolkit".

"While the local law enforcement agency is undertaking the investigation to determine the veracity of the ‘toolkit’, Twitter has unilaterally drawn a conclusion in this matter and arbitrarily tagged it as ‘Manipulated Media’", the ministry said in an official statement on Friday.

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

The federal ministry termed such unilateral action by Twitter as an effort "to influence the fair investigation process and a clear overreach, which is totally unwarranted". 

This action not only dilutes the credibility of Twitter as a neutral and unbiased platform facilitating exchange of views by the users, but also puts a question mark on the status of Twitter as an “intermediary”, it added.

The government has also asked Twitter to remove the "manipulated media" tags affixed to certain tweets in recent days in the interests of fairness and equity.

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