Government Asks Twitter to Remove ‘Manipulated Media’ Tag From Tweets Related to COVID-19 Toolkit

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The Union Government on Friday wrote to Twitter registering objection on 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 centre against COVID-19 pandemic”. It asked Twitter to remove the tag as the matter is pending investigation before law enforcement agency.

“Twitter unilaterally chose to go ahead and designate certain tweets as ‘Manipulated’, pending investigation by law enforcement agency. 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’,” the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) said in its complaint.

The government said that a complaint has already been made by one of the concerned parties before 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’. Such tagging by Twitter appears prejudged, prejudiced and a deliberate attempt to colour the investigation by local law enforcement agency,” the government said.

The Ministry has termed the action by Twitter as an effort to influence the fair investigation process and a clear overreach which is “totally unwarranted”.

This comes after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had come out with an ‘expose’ on Tuesday where it alleged that Congress has come out with a toolkit to tarnish Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and government on handling of the pandemic. The contents of the toolkit ranged from targeting PM Modi to taking the help of foreign publication journalists for building a narrative against the government over its handling of the pandemic.

BJP President JP Nadda had condemned Congress for “dividing society and spewing venom at a time when the country is fighting COVID-19 while urging Congress to go beyond toolkit models and do something constructive.”

Meanwhile, the Congress on Tuesday wrote to Delhi Police Commissioner seeking registration of FIR against BJP president JP Nadda, Union Minister Smriti Irani, party spokesperson Sambit Patra, party leader BL Santhosh and others alleging that they had shared “forged and fabricated documents with the intent to create communal disharmony and civil unrest” and to “divert attention from Modi government’s failure in providing necessary aid to people amidst the current pandemic”. The complaint was made after remarks by BJP leaders on social media with the hashtag #CongressToolkitExposed in which they accused Congress of spreading “false, negative news and stirring up discontent”.

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed on Tuesday seeking an investigation into toolkit on COVID-19 pandemic by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and suspension of membership of Congress party if the allegations against them are found to be true.

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