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Home / India / Covid: Sambit Patra's Cong 'toolkit' tweet marked as 'manipulated media'

Covid: Sambit Patra's Cong 'toolkit' tweet marked as 'manipulated media'

By Friday evening, government sources began claiming that the ministry of electronics and information technology had written to Twitter to remove the tag
Sambit Patra

J.P. Yadav   |   New Delhi   |   Published 22.05.21, 03:11 AM

Twitter on Friday labelled as “manipulated media” BJP leader Sambit Patra’s post on what he had claimed was a Congress “toolkit” on Covid, indicating that the contents had been “deceptively altered or fabricated”.

The Congress had on Thursday complained to Twitter against Patra, BJP chief J.P. Nadda and other leaders of the ruling party for allegedly circulating forged documents, spreading misinformation and trying to create disharmony in society, and demanded their accounts be permanently suspended. The Congress has also filed multiple police complaints, including one with Delhi police, but no action is known to have been taken yet.

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By Friday evening, government sources began claiming that the ministry of electronics and information technology had written to Twitter to remove the “manipulated media” tag from Patra’s tweet, saying the matter was pending for investigation before the police. There was, however, no official confirmation of this.

According to the sources, the government had emphasised to Twitter that such “content moderation” put a question mark on the microblogging site’s status as an “intermediary”, and that the police investigation would determine the veracity of the content uploaded by Patra.

Twitter’s head of global public policy and communication, Ian Plunkett, told The Telegraph on Friday night: “We can confirm this tweet has been labelled in line with our global Synthetic & Manipulated policy. We have nothing further to share.”

Patra, who had first made the allegation that the Congress had prepared a toolkit to defame the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over alleged pandemic mismanagement, had tweeted on Tuesday: “Friends look at the #CongressToolKit in extending help to the needy during the Pandemic! More of a PR exercise with the help of ‘Friendly Journalists’ & ‘Influencers’ than a soulful endeavour. Read yourselves the agenda of the Congress: #CongressToolKitExposed.”

The BJP spokesperson had attached to the tweet screenshots of the alleged toolkit.

Twitter on Friday marked this tweet as “manipulated media”. The microblogging site’s policy says this on manipulated media: “...We may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated.”

The policy asks people not to 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”.

Several Union ministers and BJP leaders, including Nadda, had shared the tweet. However, these tweets have not yet been similarly labelled by Twitter.

The Congress has alleged that the BJP had illegally obtained an internal Congress memo on the Central Vista project, forged the Congress research department’s letterhead from it, used portions of the document and added to it false and fabricated materials to create the impression that the Opposition party was trying to malign the Centre and Modi over the handling of the Covid crisis and to brazenly publicise the humanitarian work the Congress was doing during the pandemic.

Fact-checking website AltNews has studied the “toolkit” and the genuine Congress research paper and concluded that the toolkit was a forged document.

The BJP and the RSS, aided by sections of friendly media outlets, had gone to town with the purported toolkit until the party was left embarrassed by Twitter’s labelling.

Twitter had earlier marked as “manipulated media” then US President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims on voter fraud before permanently suspending his account.

The BJP was tight-lipped on Friday over the Twitter label. This newspaper’s calls and messages to Patra for a reaction went unanswered.

The controversy created by the BJP over the “toolkit” has come at a time the Modi government is facing unprecedented anger over its alleged mismanagement of the pandemic. At the same time, the Youth Congress and its parent party have been widely appreciated for selflessly helping people arrange hospital beds, oxygen and medicines, and even facilitating cremations.

A jittery BJP has tried to discredit the Congress’s efforts, accusing it of blocking hospital beds and indulging in a cynical public relations exercise. Youth Congress chief B.V. Srinivas, acclaimed nationally and internationally for his service during the pandemic, has been subjected to police questioning.

The purported toolkit had also claimed that none should be helped unless the Congress was tagged on social media by those appealing for assistance. It had tried to cast communal aspersions on the Congress by creating the impression that the party was planning to solely blame the Kumbh for the pandemic’s second wave while going soft on Id gatherings.

‘“Shame Hindu, blame Hindu’ tactic of ‘provisional’ Janeudhari Rahul Gandhi.… Blame Kumbh to shame Hindus.… #CongressToolkitExposed,” textiles minister Smriti Irani had tweeted.

Other BJP leaders like Nadda, B.L. Santosh, Piyush Goyal, Hardeep Singh Puri, Kiren Rijiju, Anurag Thakur and Pralhad Joshi too had posted tweets on the toolkit to attack the Congress.

Additional reporting by Pheroze L. Vincent



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