According to Twitter, the Indian government has strongly objected to the classification of certain tweets by Indian politicians as “manipulated media”, according to a statement to journalists on Friday.
The announcement comes two days after Twitter described a tweet from Sambit Patra, spokesman for India’s ruling party BJP, as “manipulated media”. In the tweet, Patra claimed that Congress, the leading opposition party in India, was using a “toolkit” to derail the Indian government’s efforts against the coronavirus pandemic. Alt News, a leading fact-checking organization in India, denied Patra’s claim.
The announcement did not mention politicians by name or identify any tweets.
In the statement, the Indian government said Twitter had labeled tweets “manipulated” “unbiased” despite no investigation and “asked” Twitter to remove such tags in the interests of “fairness and justice”.
According to the Indian government, Twitter’s action dilutes its credibility as a “neutral and unbiased” platform and calls into question Twitter’s status as an “intermediary”. Twitter, Facebook and every other social media company of a certain size – over a few million users – are identified as “intermediaries” in India. This emerges from a recently unveiled law that provides some of the toughest rules for internet businesses in the world.
A spokesman for Twitter, who has labeled several politicians’ tweets over the years to provide more context or corrections, citing news media and independent fact-checkers or its own technology in many markets, told TechCrunch the company had no comment.
The new announcement underscores the dilemma Twitter is facing in India, the world’s second largest internet market. There it has accumulated over 100 million users and also supported local startups.
The company led by Jack Dorsey has had to grapple with several difficult situations in India this year. After briefly following a contract for New Delhi earlier this year, the company was heavily criticized by the government for restoring accounts that posted tweets criticizing the policies of the Indian government or Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The two faced each other again publicly last month after New Delhi ordered Twitter and Facebook to remove posts critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.