Earlier today, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who seems to be still smarting from the snub of being locked out by Twitter for compromising the identity of a rape victim, took to YouTube to lambast and threaten the social media behemoth. In his video, Gandhi slammed Twitter for being biased and acting as a puppet of the ruling government.
A video slightly longer than one-and-a-half-minute titled “Twitter’s Dangerous Game” was released on Rahul Gandhi’s official YouTube channel. The Gandhi scion, in the video, alleged that Twitter was interfering in India’s politics by shutting down his account. “A company is making its business to define our politics. And as a politician, I don’t like it,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi further claimed that shutting his account down was akin to denying his 19 to 20 million followers a right to an opinion. The Wayanad MP also accused Twitter of being obliged to the central government. “It is obvious now that Twitter is not a neutral platform. It is a biased platform which heeds to the directives of the government of the day,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi’s trenchant criticism of Twitter comes a day after the microblogging website had blocked the official account of the Congress party and accounts of other Congress leaders after they were found in violation of the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offence) Act by revealing the identity of a rape victim. The party and its leaders had been foolishly tweeting the contentious image in solidarity with Rahul Gandhi in defiance of the law of the land, which proscribes the disclosure of the identity of a rape victim.
While Rahul Gandhi can keep grumbling about accounts being locked as an attempt to muzzle their freedom of expression, the question here is not about the curtailment of individual rights, but about the violation of the (Protection of Children from Sexual Offence) Act. Rahul Gandhi and other Congress-affiliated accounts violated one of the provisions of the POCSO Act by sharing pictures on social media websites that could compromise the identity of the rape victim. It is for this violation that their accounts had been locked out.
However, Rahul Gandhi, in his tirade against Twitter, accused the microblogging website of being a “puppet” whose strings are in the hands of the government of the day. These allegations seem to be a part of an elaborate ruse that Twitter India and Congress have put up, just to project the former as “neutral” after it was exposed for its anti-Modi prejudice.
Twitter stands exposed for its conspicuous favouritism for the Congress party
As such, there have been countless incidents in the past when Twitter’s favouritism for the Congress party has been writ large through its conduct. Twitter was awfully lethargic in countering fake news and misinformation peddled by Congress leaders and their sympathisers, a trait uncharacteristic of the social media behemoth which chomps at the bit of assuming the role of a content regulator and summarily dishing out labels of ‘manipulated content’. It allowed its platform to be used for promoting vaccine hesitancy when Congress leader Gaurav Pandhi made misleading claims about the content of indigenously developed Covaxin.
Twitter was even found doing Congress’ bidding after the party asked the social media organisation of carrying out a detailed investigation in connection with the ‘toolkit fiasco’ and suspend the Twitter accounts of BJP leaders that shared the toolkit allegedly linked to the Congress party. 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’. When police contacted Twitter to ask on what basis it labelled the tweets posted by BJP leaders as fake, it refused to share the ‘evidence’.
Well, this was not the first incident when Twitter had displayed unmatched alacrity in marking 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. But instead of marking Rahul Gandhi’s tweet as ‘manipulated media’, Twitter marked Amit Malviya’s tweet as misleading content.
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 the 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’.
Twitter India engages in shadow boxing with Congress as it falls out of favour with the Centre
Twitter, on the other hand, raised the hackles of the central government with its blatant bias in the toolkit fiasco. The response from the Indian government was severe and unrelenting. A new digital law was soon notified, asking social media organisations operating in the country to abide by the law or risk losing legal indemnity. While all social media companies fell in line and complied with the law, Twitter, in its hubris, did not follow the law and cried hoarse that the Indian government was suppressing the freedom of expression.
The Indian government, however, remained undaunted by Twitter’s objections and asked the social media behemoth to follow the rules or face the consequences. As a result, Twitter lost its intermediary status and was now liable to face prosecution. The BJP government at the centre has made it clear to Twitter that it will be treated at par with other social media organisations, with no special treatment being extended to the social media giant.
With Twitter falling out of favour with the central government, Twitter India and Congress seem to be engaged in shadow-boxing to once again prove that they indeed do not have a “liberal” bias but are neutral. However, if the above instances are anything to go by, they reveal the symbiotic relationship that Twitter India and the Congress party share with each other.
In fact, one cannot rule out that this entire charade is being put up so that when Twitter starts suspending BJP or “right leaning” accounts in the run-up to Uttar Pradesh elections, arbitrarily and unfairly, as it has in the past, Twitter can simply claim that it is “neutral” because it even locked the account of Rahul Gandhi. The Congress itself would also shut down any criticism of Twitter later saying that they are not a “biased platform”. It is pertinent to note that Twitter does indeed meddle in democracies and fancies itself as an arbitrator of information, however, that criticism, as true as it may be, seems misplaced when it comes from the Congress party that seems to be using the tech-giant to silent voices of differing political ideologies.
Therefore, Rahul Gandhi’s latest protestation that Twitter is a “puppet” and acting at the behest of the Modi government is not only profoundly misleading but also a shoddy attempt to cast the social media giant as “neutral” or perhaps “anti-Congress”.