Covid Toolkit Case: Government Asks Twitter To Remove ‘Manipulated Media’ Tag On BJP Leader’s Tweet

The government has asked Twitter to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tag, saying it cannot pass judgment on a matter that is under investigation, sources said.

After Twitter labelled a tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as “manipulated media”, the central government took strong objection to the micro-blogging website’s action on Friday. Sambit Patra, in the tweet in question, had shared some screenshots of what he claimed was a “toolkit” prepared by the Congress party to attack and defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.

The Congress party, rubbishing the allegations raised by the saffron party, said the screenshots were of text printed on a “forged” letterhead of the Congress. The party has also registered FIRs against BJP leaders in this regard.

As per top government sources, in its communication with Twitter, the central government has asked the social media giant to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tag, saying Twitter cannot pass judgment on a matter that is under investigation.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT wrote, according to sources privy to the development, wrote “a strong communication” to Twitter, registering objection to the use of ‘manipulated media’ tag on certain tweets.

The communication referred to Sambit Patra’s tweet (without naming him) as “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 pandemic”, India Today reported.

According to sources, the government has asked Twitter to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tag because the matter is pending investigation before law-enforcement agency.

In addition, the government also made it clear that Twitter can’t pass such judgment while the matter is under investigation, sources said.

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.

The ongoing investigation into the matter will determine the veracity of the content and not Twitter, the government said, asking Twitter to refrain from interfering in the 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’, the ministry told Twitter as per sources.

It added that this was an effort to “influence the fair investigation” and a “clear overreach, which is totally unwarranted”.

Such 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 Twitter’s status as an “intermediary”, the sources said.

Meanwhile, two days after filing FIRs against several BJP leaders for sharing the alleged toolkit, the Congress wrote to Twitter asking it to permanently suspend accounts of BJP chief JP Nadda, Union minister Smriti Irani, party leaders Sambit Patra and BL Santosh for allegedly “spreading misinformation and unrest in the society” by using “forged” documents.

“We’ve formally written to Twitter seeking suspension of Twitter accounts of BJP leaders who are indulging in spreading forged documents attributing to Congress,” said Congress’ social media department head Rohan Gupta.

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