Flagging of Sambit Patra’s tweet as ‘manipulated media’ an embarrassment for govt; asks Twitter to remove it

The decision to flag Sambit Patra’s May 18 tweet came after Congress complained to Twitter that the ensemble of pages circulated as the party’s ‘toolkit’ by top BJP leaders was fake

BJP leader Sambit Patra (Photo Courtesy: social media)
BJP leader Sambit Patra (Photo Courtesy: social media)

NH Web Desk

The decision taken by microblogging platform Twitter to flag BJP’s chief spokesperson Sambit Patra’s May 18 tweet purportedly containing screenshots of a Congress ‘toolkit’ on PM Narendra Modi’s handling of the pandemic as ‘manipulated media’ is being seen as an embarrassment for the BJP-led government, as several ministers had tweeted the same.

The decision to flag Patra’s tweet came late on Thursday evening after the Congress complained to Twitter that the ensemble of pages circulated as the party’s ‘toolkit’ by top BJP leaders was fake.

The letter by Congress had pointed out that top BJP functionaries had used Twitter as a platform to disseminate “false information” which could “cause social unrest in the country, amidst the current pandemic.”

“…the said persons (BJP leaders including its president J.P.Nadda) are habitual of manufacturing forged content and misusing the Twitter platform for disseminating the same,” the letter written by the head of Congress’ research team Rajeev Gowda and its social media team’s chief Rohan Gupta had said.

Fact-checking website AltNews has already published a comprehensive report establishing that the document which the BJP leaders had disseminated on social media was created on a forged Congress letterhead.

Rohan Gupta had tweeted:

The Centre on Friday asked Twitter to remove the 'manipulated media' tag contending that the matter is pending before a law enforcement agency.

A PTI report quoted sources as saying that the Ministry of Electronics and IT has sent a strong communication to the global team of Twitter registering its objection to the 'manipulated media' tag. In its communication, the ministry has stated that a complaint has already been made by one of the concerned parties before the local law enforcement agency questioning the veracity of the toolkit and the same is under investigation.

Twitter in its policies section says, “…we may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated. In addition, you may not share deceptively altered media on Twitter in ways that mislead or deceive people about the media’s authenticity where threats to physical safety or other serious harm may result.”

Twitter had frequently used similar warnings when outgoing president Donald Trump used his personal handle to spread misinformation about ‘voter fraud’ having cost him the November 2020 election.

The Congress had filed a complaint with Delhi Police on May 18 against BJP leaders for fraud and forgery, as reported by National Herald. It had said that the fraudulent act was done by the BJP “to divert the attention from the Modi government’s mammoth failure in providing necessary aid to the people of India, amidst the current pandemic.”

The next day, on May 19, the National Students Union of India (NSUI) had lodged an FIR against former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and party spokesperson Sambit Patra in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, as reported by National Herald.

Apart from Patra, right-wing influencer Shefali Vadiya’s tweet containing the same content was also tagged as ‘manipulated media’.

Reacting to the development, the Congress said its stand on the 'Covid toolkit' issue stands validated.

Congress leader K C Venugopal said, "The Congress stand has been validated by Twitter's action itself. What the Congress has been telling for the last so many days and years about the BJP's false propaganda and spreading lies is actually validated by this single incident."

"We will take note of it and will take further action," he said, when asked about the Congress' follow-up action.

Party spokesperson Pawan Khera said the world should see how India's ruling party is "trying to create manipulative media during a pandemic without fulfilling its own duty".

"The people should see this," he said. "The Congress has pledged that it will not ignore such things, as they (the BJP) have been doing so in the past too. We will reply emphatically."

He also said that the party would continue to pursue action on a police complaint against BJP chief JP Nadda, Union minister Smriti Irani and Patra, among others, for "peddling a false narrative" through social media.

"The law will take its own course. We will continue with the legal remedies," Khera said, when asked about the future of Congress' police complaint.

The Congress leader said it will also pursue with Twitter for further stricter action against the BJP leaders.

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Published: 21 May 2021, 7:56 PM