Police In India Raid Twitter Offices After Twitter Labeled A Tweet By A Government Official As 'Manipulated Media'
from the intimidation-tactics dept
Remember the absolute shit fit that Donald Trump threw after Twitter placed warning labels on some of his tweets about mail-in ballots? That resulted in the ridiculous executive order to undermine Section 230, even though all Twitter had done at the time was add more speech to Trump’s tweets and pointed out that they were presenting misleading information.
To some extent, however, we should be thankful that the power of the US President is at least somewhat limited, or we might have ended up with a situation like what happened in India this week. The story begins similarly to what happened with Twitter labeling some Trump tweets. In this case, there was something of a political spat in India, where the Indian National Congress (more or less the opposition political party, not a legislative body as the name might imply), complained to Twitter that the leading BJP party was spreading “forged documents” on Twitter. They asked Twitter to suspend the accounts of some BJP leaders who were supposedly spreading those documents.
We've formally written to @Twitter seeking suspension of Twitter accounts of BJP leaders who are indulging in spreading forged documents attributing to Congress.
While an FIR has already been lodged, the independent fact-checkers too have blown the lid off BJP's propaganda. pic.twitter.com/DeVUO585l3
— Rohan Gupta (@rohanrgupta) May 20, 2021
The “forged documents” were basically misleading claims by the BJP that Congress was using a “toolkit” to undermine the Indian government’s response to the raging pandemic.
After apparently reviewing this request to suspend those accounts, Twitter instead took what should be seen as a perfectly reasonable middle ground approach, and flagged the tweets of a BJP spokesperson noting that they were “manipulated media.” The “manipulated media” flag is one of the first that Twitter started using in its attempt to flag misinformation and it has been used for well over a year now in a variety of contexts.
Now matter how you look at it, this is a “more speech” approach to dealing with potential misinformation. Twitter is adding its own speech to the tweets, noting that what they show appears to be manipulated. This hardly seems like a reason for law enforcement to get involved — but get involved they did. Police first sent a notice to Twitter demanding an explanation over why it placed the “manipulated media” tag on that tweet, and then followed it up by raiding two separate Twitter offices in order to conduct a “search” for such information.
Of course, Twitter has all of its employees working from home these days (especially in India where there is still a massive COVID outbreak), so that wasn’t particularly effective. But this is also against the backdrop of the Indian government just recently threatening to throw Twitter employees in jail if they didn’t remove various criticisms of the Indian government, including over both protests and its handling of the pandemic.
This is all kind of terrifying when you look at it. It seems like a blatant intimidation technique from the ruling government trying to stifle not only criticism, but to suppress attempts to fact check some of its own disinformation.