The Indian government has expressed strong objection to Twitter for classifying certain tweets by Indian politicians as “manipulated media,” according to a notice leaked to journalists Friday.
The notice comes two days after Twitter labeled a tweet from Sambit Patra, the spokesperson of India’s ruling party BJP, as “manipulated media.” In the tweet, Patra had claimed that Congress, the leading opposition party in India, was using a so-called “toolkit” to derail the Indian government’s efforts against the coronavirus pandemic. Alt News, a leading fact-checking organization in India, debunked Patra’s claim.
The notice didn’t mention any politician by name nor did it identify any tweets.
In the notice, the Indian government said Twitter chose to designate tweets as “manipulated” “prejudicially” even though an investigation hadn’t been conducted, and also “asked” Twitter to remove such tags in the interest of “fairness and equity.”
Twitter’s action, the Indian government said, dilutes its credibility as a “neutral and unbiased” platform as well as puts a “question mark on the status of Twitter as an ‘Intermediary.’” Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media firm with a certain size — over a few million users — are identified as an “intermediary” in India, according to a recently unveiled law, which provisions some of the world’s toughest rules for internet companies.
A spokesperson of Twitter — which has labeled several politicians’ tweets over the years to provide more context or correction, citing news media and independent fact checkers or its own technology, in many markets — told TechCrunch that the company had no comment.
The new notice underscores the dilemma Twitter faces in India, the world’s second largest internet market, where it has amassed over 100 million users and has also backed local startups.
The Jack Dorsey-led company has had to grappled several tough situations in India this year. After briefly complying with a New Delhi order early this year, the company faced heat from the government for restoring accounts that had posted tweets critical of the Indian government’s policy or the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The two faced off again publicly last month after New Delhi ordered Twitter and Facebook to take down posts that were critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.