The government and microblogging site Twitter seem to be headed for a second confrontation, with the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) writing to the latter to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tag for tweets on an alleged Congress toolkit used to target the Centre over its Covid-19 handling.
According to sources, the government has asked Twitter to remove the tag as the matter is pending before a law enforcement agency, and so, it wasn’t proper for the social media platform to pass judgment when the issue was under investigation.
“While the local law enforcement agency is undertaking the investigation to determine the veracity of the toolkit, Twitter has unilaterally drawn a conclusion in the 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,” MeitY said in a communication sent to the microblogging site.
A few days ago, Twitter had flagged a tweet as ‘manipulated media’ by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on the alleged toolkit. Twitter has also flagged tweets by some political leaders discussing about the toolkit as ‘manipulated media’.
The communication also said Twitter’s action not only dilutes its credibility as a neutral and unbiased platform facilitating exchange of views by the users, but also puts a question mark on its status as an ‘intermediary’.
This is not the first time when the government and Twitter have sparred over political content. In February, MeitY had sent a string of letters to the social media platform asking it to remove hashtags/accounts/tweets relating to farmers’ protest which, according to the the government, were leading to misinformation having potential to create law and order problems. The ministry had then made it clear to Twitter that it is an intermediary and bound by the laws which governs such platforms and therefore, it cannot adjudicate on its own.
Sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are categorised as intermediaries, which are basically platforms which do not own content but put across third-party content. As a result intermediaries enjoy certain exemptions from liabilities with regard to content, data and communication. If anything unlawful is noticed on such platforms, MeitY directs the concerned intermediary to remove the unlawful content within a specified period of time. Penal action follows if the concerned intermediary fails to follow such directions.