In an apparent first in India, microblogging platform Twitter on Wednesday flagged as “manipulated media” a tweet on the ongoing farmer protests from the official account of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) IT cell head Amit Malviya.
“The referenced tweet was labelled based on our synthetic and manipulated media policy,” said a Twitter spokesperson in an emailed response to Mint.
Twitter started applying labels to tweets first in the US, where most famously, US President Donald Trump’s tweets were repeatedly flagged as disinformation of various kinds.
Wednesday’s incident can potentially be the first in what could doubtless be a politically sensitive path for Twitter in India. Previously, Facebook India had been in the eye of a storm over allegations that it selectively applied content standards to favor the ruling BJP.
Twitter said under a new policy launched in February, it actively labels tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated, to promote sharing of authentic information on its platform. It red flags content posted on its platform on three criteria: if it is significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated, if it is shared in a deceptive manner, or if it is likely to impact public safety or cause harm. Such content is flagged if it meets the first criteria and removed if two or more criteria are met.
The flagged tweet by Malviya was posted in response to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who had tweeted a news agency photograph showing a policeman wielding his baton against a protesting elderly farmer in Delhi with a caption in Hindi loosely translated as “It is a very sad photo. Our slogan was Jai Jawan Jai Kisan but today PM Modi’s arrogance made the jawan stand against the farmer.”
In response, Malviya shared a video clip labeling it as “reality”, which showed the policeman’s baton not touching the farmer. Fact-checking website Alt News reported that Malviya had tweeted a clipped video of the incident suggesting that the elderly farmer wasn’t hit.
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