Twitter flags post by ruling party official in what appears to be first for India

Namita Singh
·2-min read
An Indian man poses for a photograph using Twitter on his cellpohne in Siliguri on March 27, 2018.  (AFP via Getty Images)
An Indian man poses for a photograph using Twitter on his cellpohne in Siliguri on March 27, 2018. (AFP via Getty Images)

Twitter has put a warning on a post by the IT cell chief of India’s ruling party, in what is believed to be the first time the social media giant has applied such a label on an Indian user’s tweet.

The warning was placed on a video shared by the BJP’s Amit Malviya, as well as on the same post shared by conservative Twitter account @PoliticalKida, according to the AltNews fact-checking service co-founder Mohammed Zubair.

Mr Malviya had on shared what he described as a debunker of a widely-covered photograph of a riot police officer holding up a baton to an elderly farmer during the protests outside Delhi that started last week.

The image was shared by several prominent members of opposition parties including Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, who tweeted in Hindi: “It is a very sad photo. Our slogan was ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ (go soldier, go farmer) but today PM Modi’s arrogance made the jawan stand against the farmer. This is very dangerous.”

Responding to Mr Gandhi's tweet, Mr Malviya called the image “propaganda” and compared it to the “reality” of a video of the incident. The brief clip showed the officer did not physically strike the farmer. "Rahul Gandhi must be the most discredited opposition leader India has seen in a long long time," read Mr Malviya’s caption.

Alt News reported that Mr Malviya had himself tweeted a clipped version of the video.

“Amit Malviya shared a few seconds of a clipped video to suggest that the elderly farmer wasn’t hit. This was an attempt to water down the force used by police against the protesters. It must be pointed out that whether the baton touched the farmer or not is irrelevant. The video was shot at a time when large numbers of protesters had broken police barricades and the cops were retaliating with lathi-charge and tear gas,” Alt News concluded.

Four days later, Twitter added the label of “manipulated media”, which in its terms is used to refer to an audio-visual piece of content which has been “significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated.”

It was back in February 2020 that Twitter announced its policy on labelling tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media, including videos, audio and images. It said that such content would be removed if they are “deceptively shared,” and pose “serious harm”. In order to determine the degree of manipulation, Twitter said it would use its own technology or receive reports through partnerships with third parties.

Twitter said its policies would take into account whether the context in which the media is shared could result in confusion or misunderstanding, or suggests a deliberate intent to deceive people about the nature or origin of the content.

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