Indian police raid Twitter offices amid row over 'manipulated media'

The social media giant has a tense relationship with the country's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party

Police patrol a market area amid heightened restrictions to curb the spread of the Covid-19, in Amritsar, Punjab, northern India. AFP
Police patrol a market area amid heightened restrictions to curb the spread of the Covid-19, in Amritsar, Punjab, northern India. AFP

Police searched Twitter’s office in India on Monday, following the company’s decision to label multiple tweets from accounts linked to the country’s ruling party as "manipulated media".

Twitter had last week flagged up tweets from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party for violating its synthetic and manipulated media policy, a source familiar with the matter confirmed.

This policy forbids users from sharing things that “deceptively promote synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm.”

The tweets from various BJP-linked accounts alleged that its rival Indian National Congress party had put out a document specifying failures by Mr Modi in his handling of the coronavirus.

India has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases that has overwhelmed its health system. It has recorded more than 300,000 deaths.

Congress complained to Twitter that the document was fake, according to a Reuters report, and the social media company labeled a handful of the tweets promoting it as “manipulated media”.

Among the tweets that were labelled was one from BJP spokesman Sambit Patra, which angered members of the party, who felt Twitter acted inappropriately.

Twitter declined to comment.

It last month removed or restricted access to more than 50 posts at the behest of the Indian government, including tweets that criticised its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The company has also previously applied its manipulated media policy to US politicians, including former president Donald Trump.

Twitter permanently suspended more than 500 accounts and blocked access to hundreds of others in India earlier this year during farm protests, acceding to a government order to limit misinformation and inflammatory content.

Updated: May 25, 2021 01:40 PM

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