- A tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra about the supposed toolkit planned by Congress to target the Modi government has been labelled as "manipulated media" by Twitter.
- The Congress wrote to Twitter, requesting that the accounts of BJP leaders such as party Chief JP Nadda and Union minister Smriti Irani be permanently suspended for allegedly "promoting disinformation and turmoil in the society."
- The opposition party claims the BJP's toolkit documents are "fabricated" and has filed a police complaint against the party's officials.
- The Chhattisgarh police have filed an FIR to investigate the incident.
- BJP officials, including Patra, have attacked Congress over the kits in a series of tweets.
- Patra's now-deleted tweet "Friends, look at the #CongressToolKit in extending help to the needy during the Pandemic!" manipulative media" had tweeted a document with the message, "Friends look at the #CongressToolKit in extending help to the needy during the Pandemic!" Rather than being a genuine endeavour, it was more of a PR exercise with the support of Friendly Journalists and Influencers. Examine the Congress's programme for yourself ".
The Congress had filed a complaint with Twitter's headquarters, accusing the BJP spokesperson of falsification. Sambit Patra released a tweet on May 18 with screenshots of a supposed paper shared by the Congress, claiming it was a "Toolkit" to defame the Modi government amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
The letter was circulating in the shape of advice on how to discredit the Modi government over Covid aid activities during the pandemic, according to BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra's viral post.
If Twitter has grounds to believe that material provided in a tweet has been significantly and deceptively altered or invented, the message is labelled as manipulated media.
‘We may mark tweets that include material (videos, audio, and photos) that has been deliberately altered or manufactured,' according to Twitter's synthetic and manipulated media policy. Furthermore, you may not share deceptively changed material on Twitter in ways that mislead or deceive people about the media's authenticity, particularly where physical safety or other serious harm is at risk.'
What is the controversy
“Friends, look at the #CongressToolKit in offering support to the needy during Pandemic!” Patra tweeted. More of a public relations stunt aided by "Friendly Journalists" and "Influencers" than a heartfelt endeavour." said the tweet.
In response, Congress stated the BJP's toolkit documents were "fabricated" and filed a police report against BJP officials Nadda and Irani. The Chhattisgarh Police have filed an FIR to investigate the incident.
In a complaint filed with the Delhi Police, the Congress also claimed that Patra faked information and used a falsified letterhead from the Congress's research department.
Congress had filed a complaint with Twitter's headquarters in California the day before it made its decision on Patra. For allegedly "promoting misinformation and instability in the society," the BJP demanded Twitter to permanently remove the accounts of many BJP figures, including party chief J.P. Nadda and Union minister Smriti Irani.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT has issued a forceful letter to Twitter's worldwide team, expressing its opposition to the usage of the "manipulated media" tag on specific tweets made by Indian politicians, referring to a toolkit intended to disrupt, divert, and humiliate the government's attempts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
This time, however, the ministry argues that only the police inquiry, not Twitter's, will assess the truth of the information, and has asked Twitter to stay out of the inquiry.
Congress writes to Twitter
A Day after police visited Twitter India's Delhi and Gurgaon headquarters to issue a notice in connection with BJP leaders' posts alleging a "Congress toolkit" conspiracy, which prompted the Congress to file a "forgery" complaint, it has been revealed that the Special Cell of the Delhi Police has also served notices to Congress social media head Rohan Gupta and spokesperson M V Rajeev Gowda as part of its investigation.
Police are starting a preliminary investigation and summoning all people and organisations allegedly involved in the "toolkit" issue, according to a senior officer – Twitter flagged the BJP tweets as "manipulated media."
While no formal complaint has been filed, the officer believes that BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, whose position was identified, will be summoned for questioning.
Meanwhile, Congress has urged Twitter to classify 11 Union Ministers' tweets, including IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, as "manipulated media," claiming that they are promoting "false and harmful propaganda" against the party. In a letter to Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's Lead for Legal, Policy, and Trust & Safety, and Jim Baker, Twitter's Deputy General Counsel and Vice President, Legal, Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala demanded action against 11 Union ministers for allegedly circulating fraudulent and fraudulent documents.
Surjewala shared a list of the Twitter usernames of numerous Union Ministers, as well as the tweets they sent on May 18, the day the BJP released what it dubbed a "toolkit" by the Congress, describing it as an attempt to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government over the Covid epidemic.
The tweets, according to Surjewala, were sent "with a clear mal-intent to use the social media space (Twitter) to spread lies and malicious propaganda throughout the territory of India."
Union Ministers Giriraj Singh, Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prahlad Joshi, Dharmendra Pradhan, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Thawarchand Gehlot, Harsh Vardhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat are among the Twitter handles named by Surjewala.
“It is also a reality that people tend to regard (as) ‘true' and accept at face value any information posted directly by a Union Minister...via his/her official/ verified Twitter account. As a result, tagging ‘manipulative media' on all such tweets made by Ministers...on the above linked fabricated toolkit paper generated by the BJP becomes even more important,” Surjewala added.
Patra's tweet isn't the first to be flagged for its content by Twitter. Amit Malviya's tweet about the farmers' protest was likewise labelled as "manipulated media" in December 2020.
This is the second time Patra has been accused of manipulating a tweet. The BJP released an 18-second video of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on January 30 in which he was made to sound like he was “supporting” the disputed agriculture rules. Twitter labelled the tweet as manipulated two days later because it had been intentionally modified. The footage was created by juxtaposing excerpts from a 41-minute-long interview in order to communicate a different message than what was initially intended. Patra took down the tweet a few days later.
In December 2020, Twitter labelled a tweet from BJP's IT chief Amit Malviya as "manipulated media." Malviya's tweet regarding police intervention during a farmers' demonstration near Delhi was the first time Twitter took action in India against "false news."
Malviya was reacting to a message by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the tweet in the issue. Gandhi had tweeted a photo of a police officer slapping a protesting old farmer with his baton, stating in Hindi, "It is a very terrible sight." Our rallying cry was "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan," but now, Prime Minister Modi's hubris turned the jawan against the farmer. This is really hazardous.”
Malviya responded by posting a “propaganda vs reality” video on November 28 alleging to show that the farmer was not hit by the police baton. “Rahul Gandhi must be the most disgraced opposition leader India has seen in a long long time,” he said in the caption.
Following a message about suspected post-poll violence in West Bengal, Twitter permanently blocked actor Kangana Ranaut's account last month. In her remark, the Bollywood actress called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein in Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Twitter chose to flag Patra's tweet after Congress protested to the social media site that the collection of pages circulated as the party's "toolkit" by key BJP leaders was bogus. Twitter has previously used similar warnings on tweets by former US President Donald Trump concerning voter fraud after the 2020 elections. AltNews, a fact-checking website, has produced a comprehensive analysis proving that the paper circulated on social media by the BJP's top leadership was made on counterfeit Congress letterhead.
A number of BJP and RSS figures used the hashtag #CongressToolKitExposed to attack the Congress party on social media in response to the claimed toolkit.
Last July 22, Twitter deleted 7,000 accounts belonging to QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory organisation and staunch Trump supporter. Because of difficulties with abuse and misinformation, Twitter took wide efforts to limit the reach of QAnon content, banning many of the conspiracy theory's followers.