On 19 May 2021, Congress shot off an email to Twitter, asking the social media behemoth to permanently suspend Twitter accounts of BJP leaders JP Nadda, Sambit Patra, Smriti Irani, BL Santosh and many other functionaries for sharing a toolkit, which they claimed was prepared by the Congress party to sully the reputation of the Modi government amidst the raging COVID-19 outbreak.
The email was sent a day after the BJP leaders had exposed a toolkit that entailed point-by-point instructions for the Congress workers for attacking the Modi government. From maligning the Kumbh Mela and describing it as ‘super spreader’ to using international media and ‘friendly’ journalists to defame PM Modi, to blocking beds and hoarding other essential supplies for favourable social media PR, the content of the toolkit included a range of directives for the loyal Congress leaders and supporters to be followed to paint PM Modi and his government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in a bad light.
In its email, Congress accused the BJP leaders and functionaries of spreading misinformation and declared the toolkit to be a forged document. However, it did not provide any proof to back its claim that the toolkit document was fabricated and not genuine. Instead, it only attached politically motivated FIRs that the party had filed against the BJP leaders after they shared the toolkit, allegedly linked to the Congress party.
1. Congress wrote email, asking to suspend accounts of BJP leaders— Vijay Patel (@vijaygajera) May 21, 2021
2. Letter doesn’t have any proof, just mention of FIR
3. Twitter was in action just in 1 day
4. Umar Khalid is in jail and have name in chargesheet, but still his account is on Twitter and have blue tick! pic.twitter.com/HYv2jqvqhf
“On 18.05.2021, various BJP functionaries- including Mr J.P Nadda (4JPNadda), National President, BJP; Mr. Sambit Patra Ki sambitswaraj), National Spokesperson, BJP; Mrs Smriti Irani (@smritiirani), BJP Leader and Minister; Mr BL Santosh (Siblsantosh), General Secretary of BJP & other persons, in a pre-planned criminal conspiracy, prepared a forged & fabricated the letterhead of the INC Research Department and thereafter printed certain mischievous, false and fabricated content on the same, for the purpose of vide dissemination through their official Twitter handles, with the clear intent to cause social unrest, communal disharmony in order to fuel hate and escalate violence in various parts of India,” the email read.
The Congress party asked Twitter to carry out a detailed investigation on the matter and permanently suspend the Twitter accounts of BJP leaders. “Also, you are requested to kindly carry out a detailed probe on the subject matter and permanently suspend the Twitter accounts of the above-named individuals, as the said persons are habitual of manufacturing forged content and misusing the Twitter platform for disseminating the same,” the email said.
Within a day, Twitter promptly obliged to Congress party’s request and marked the tweet carrying the photo of the Congress toolkit as ‘manipulated media’. On 19 May 2021, Twitter marked Sambit Patra’s tweet on the Congress toolkit as ‘manipulated media’, a label it grants to tweets that it deems are misleading in nature. Not only did Twitter show an unmatched alacrity to label the tweet as ‘manipulated media’, but it also did so in absence of credible evidence that conclusively proves that the toolkit document was indeed fabricated.
Propaganda website AltNews did try to give a clean chit to Congress in the toolkit fiasco, but they only ended up exposing the symbiotic relationship they share with the Congress party. In its rush to declare the toolkit to be fake, AltNews provided ludicrous justifications and flimsy arguments to declare that the toolkit was a forged document.
Based on no proof and politically motivated FIRs attached by Congress, Twitter decided to attach a ‘manipulated media’ tag to the tweet, raising suspicions of it being a part of the toolkit that was designed to malign the Modi government.
Twitter’s conspicuous discrimination against the BJP and its penchant of meddling in India’s politics
As such, if Twitter’s past antecedents are to be considered, it has always displayed fervid zeal in marking the tweets put out by BJP leaders as ‘manipulated media’, even when those tweets were meant to debunk patently misleading information shared by the Congress leaders, including their former president Rahul Gandhi.
In December 2020, BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya shared a video debunking the lies peddled by the Congress leaders. Malviya shared a video in response to an image shared by Rahul Gandhi wherein he insinuated that the police was beating up an old farmer.
The video showed that the law enforcement official who is portrayed in the image shared by Rahul Gandhi as beating up an old ‘farmer’ simply swung the baton in the air to scare the protester away. The baton did not touch the protester. Yet, several Congress leaders and the IT cell bot deceitfully shared the picture to paint the security official of using violence against the old farmer.
Malviya had shared a video to call out this treachery of the Congress leaders. However, his tweet was labelled by Twitter as ‘manipulated media’ while no such label was attached to scores of tweets posted by Congress leaders that carried the misleading picture.
Later in March 2021, Congress IT Cell head Rohan Gupta shared a cropped video from PM Modi’s rally in Assam on Twitter. PM Modi in the video had called out Congress formula of keeping the poor poor and exploiting them for electoral gains. However, the snippet shared by Gupta was carefully cropped to give an impression that PM Modi was advocating the exploitation of the poor for votes.
Gupta conveniently edited out the part in which PM Modi elaborated on how it was the Congress modus operandi of preying on the poor and making false promises to them to win their votes. However, Twitter did not bother to mark Gupta’s tweet as ‘manipulated media’.
On the other hand, former JNU leader Umar Khalid, who is in jail for his involvement in the Delhi riots, still has a verified Twitter account. Similarly, Disha Ravi, the 21-year-old woman who was accused of creating and distributing the ‘toolkit’ related to the farmer protests in Delhi, was granted a verified tick by Twitter.
It leads one to wonder if Twitter is really impartial in dishing out its misleading content label or whether such categorisation is only reserved for the tweets posted by the BJP leaders and not for the opposition politicians who peddle falsehoods and manipulated content. Twitter’s starkly prejudicial behaviour naturally adds more weight to the suspicions that the social media tech giant was a part of the toolkit all along.