India police visit Twitter offices after BJP tweet flagged

Police visit Twitter offices to serve notice to its country managing director after social media giant tags BJP spokesman’s post as ‘manipulated media’.

Twitter declined to comment on the matter [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

Police in India’s capital have served a notice at Twitter’s offices, seeking information for a complaint about why a tweet by the spokesman of the ruling Hindu nationalist party was tagged as “manipulated media”.

Leaders of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last week shared portions of a document on Twitter they said was created by the main opposition Congress and highlighted government failures in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress complained to Twitter saying the document was fake, after which the United States’s company marked some of the posts – including one by BJP spokesman Sambit Patra – as “manipulated media”.

New Delhi police late on Monday said they had received a complaint about the classification of Patra’s tweet, which it was investigating, adding that a team of officials visited a Twitter office to serve notice of the inquiry.

“This was necessary as we wanted to ascertain who is the right person to serve a notice (to), as replies by Twitter India MD have been very ambiguous,” a police statement said, referring to the company’s managing director.

‘Manipulated media’

Twitter says it applies its “manipulated media” tag to posts “that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated”.

A leading fact-check organisation, AltNews, said it had analysed the documents and claimed that some were created with a forged letterhead.

Twitter declined to comment on the matter.

Reporting from New Delhi, Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam said the Delhi Police visited Twitter offices in the capital and the neighbouring city of Gurugram on Monday night.

“They (BJP) were accusing the main opposition Congress party of conspiring to malign Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government over their handling of the coronavirus,” she said.

“Congress denied being behind such efforts and it would suggest from Twitter flagging these ‘manipulative media’ that they haven’t found any evidence to support that.”

Tensions between Modi’s government and the social media giant have been brewing for months, with Twitter earlier this year reversing its blocking of a number of accounts critical of New Delhi’s new agriculture laws following a request from authorities.

An Indian climate activist was arrested in February after allegedly helping to create a guide to farmer protests against the laws that was tweeted by environmentalist Greta Thunberg.

The government last month also ordered Twitter and Facebook to remove dozens of posts critical of Modi’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Modi and the BJP have been criticised for their slow response to a new wave of COVID-19 infections that has pushed India’s healthcare system to breaking point, prompting criticism of the Modi administration’s approach to curbing the pandemic.

The BJP has hit back via its social media army, blaming state governments and others for ignoring what it says were Modi’s repeated warnings of a second wave.

India has recorded a total of 26.75 million COVID-19 infections, second only to the US, with more than 300,000 deaths but experts warn that the actual toll could be much higher.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies