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Indian police visit local Twitter HQ after government spokesperson's tweet labelled as 'manipulated'
Action comes amid raging second wave, government pressure on social networks to suppress misinformation
Police in the Indian capital Delhi have turned up at Twitter's local HQ seeking evidence about a tweet made by a prominent political figure that the micro-blogging service labelled as including "manipulated media".
The tweet from Sambit Patra, who holds no elected office but is national spokesperson of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), included what he claimed to be a document detailing the opposition Congress Party's plan to put political pressure on the government's response to a huge second wave of COVID-19 infections. Patra argued that the document demonstrates a too-cozy relationship between media and Congress.
India's non-profit fact checking website Alt News has said the image accompanying Patra’s tweet is fake.
Here's the contentious Tweet.
Friends look at the #CongressToolKit in extending help to the needy during the Pandemic!— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) May 18, 2021
More of a PR exercise with the help of “Friendly Journalists” & “Influencers” than a soulful endeavour.
Read for yourselves the agenda of the Congress:#CongressToolKitExposed pic.twitter.com/3b7c2GN0re
Officers from the Delhi Police Service’s Special Cell, a branch for investigating terrorism and organized crime, showed up at Twitter offices in Lado Sarai, Delhi and Gurugram with a notice requiring attendance to assist with investigations into the document Tweeted by Patra.
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Just what Delhi police wanted Twitter to divulge is unclear. No evidence indicates Delhi's finest were following an order from India's government, nor is there any sign that Congress initiated the action. A source told Buzzfeed India the police visit was a routine process following insufficient responses from Twitter India managing director Manish Maheshwari.
It is also unclear whether the police were able to access the building. Numerous sources say Twitter India's employees are working from home during India's current COVID crisis.
Delhi Police Special Cell team returns from Gurgaon after they find the Twitter India offices shut. Apparently there is work from home at @TwitterIndia since March last year. Was this move by Government to send out a message? pic.twitter.com/aCBfjhb5CC— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) May 24, 2021
The former head of news at Twitter India, Raheel Khursheed, has called the actions an intimidation tactic.
This would be funny if it wasn’t tragic. @DelhiPolice knows that no data is physically stored at @TwitterIndia offices hence purpose of raid is nothing but intimidation. https://t.co/jgfWTMO2L2— Raheel Khursheed (@Raheelk) May 24, 2021
The ruling BJP has faced criticism for its response to India's second wave of COVID-19 infections, which has seen over 250,000 new daily infections for the last four weeks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attempted to clamp down on social media posts by critics and rival politicians with claims some spread misinformation and cause panic.
Twitter has agreed with many of those claims, making challenged tweets inaccessible from India. But the service has also temporarily hidden posts containing the #ResignModi hashtag. ®