On the 25th of May, the Indian National Congress (INC) wrote to Twitter and asked to affix the manipulative media tag on tweets of several BJP leaders. The letter addressed to Twitter read, “Urgent need to affix ‘Manipulative Media’ Tags to the Tweets of Union Ministers in the Modi Government for spreading false and malicious propaganda.” The letter further read, “Further, in order to bring to your notice, the role played by various Union Ministers in the Modi Government to propagate the above mentioned forged documents through their official Twitter handles, I had addressed an email dated May 25 to Twitter Inc. In furtherance of the same, vide your reply dated May 25, you had asked to provide URLs of the said Tweets of the Union Ministers. (sic.)”
The list of Twitter handles of the BJP leaders given by the INC include Shandilya Giriaj Singh, Piyush Goyal, Smriti Zubin Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prahlad Joshi, Dharmendra Pradhan, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Thawarchand Gehlot, Harsh Vardhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
The Congress has also attached a screenshot of the tweets on the ‘forged Toolkit document’ with the letter.
The letter has been undersigned by the National General Secretary of Congress party Randeep Singh Surjewala.
The development came after the Delhi Police served notices to several leaders of the Indian National Congress (INC) in the toolkit allegations.
The matter started on the 18th of May, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged the INC leaders of creating a ‘Tooklit’ for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) to tarnish the image of the ruling BJP Government.
According to the allegations, the INC made a COVID-19 toolkit and is aiming to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi by calling the new strain the Modi strain. The matter worsened after a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Sambit Patra, posted a tweet taking a dig at the INC over toolkit context. The tweet of Sambit Patra included documents, voice notes, media and screen shots, which he claimed to be the toolkit prepared by the Indian National Congress.
Responding to the allegations, on the 19th of May, the INC’s youth cell, filed a complaint with the Chhattisgarh Police and asked Twitter to suspend Sambit Patra’s account over false allegations.
Soon, Twitter labelled Mr. Patra’s tweet as ‘manipulated media.’ Since then, the toolkit matter has made several headlines including the BJP Government, the INC and now Twitter. The matter became a national issue after Sambit Patra’s tweet was labelled manipulative. In regard to this, the Union Information Technology and Electronic Ministry wrote to Twitter India officials and asked to remove the labelled tag. The letter also asked Twitter to stay out of the matter, which is under investigation with the Delhi Police.
As a part of investigation, on the 24th of May, the Delhi Police visited Twitter India’s New Delhi, Lado Sari and Gurgaon offices to ostensibly serve the social media platform a notice in the case. A senior police officer said they are, as of now, conducting preliminary enquiry before registering any first information report (FIR) and summoning any organisations allegedly involved in the matter. They asked Twitter to share the information that it has in regard to the alleged toolkit and why it used the “manipulated media” tag used on tweets alleging a INC “Toolkit” against the Central Government.
The Delhi Police PRO Chinmoy Biswal said the action was “a part of a routine process. This was necessitated as we wanted to ascertain who is the right person to serve a notice, as replies by Twitter India MD have been very ambiguous.” Chinmoy Biswal also said, “It appears that Twitter has some information that is not known to the police. This information is relevant to the inquiry.” However, when asked about the information or its context, the Police refused to comment.
As of now, the Delhi Police and the Chhattisgarh police are investigating the ‘toolkit’ issue separately.