The Delhi Police on Monday searched offices of Twitter India in New Delhi and Gurugram, hours after issuing a notice about labelling several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders’ tweets as “manipulated media” in relation to a Covid-19 toolkit allegedly released by Congress, ANI reported.
This came amid global criticism for the mismanagement of the second wave of Covid-19 by the BJP-led Central government, that led to thousands of deaths in the country and the ongoing spat between the Centre and the microblogging site.
On May 18, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra shared a screenshot claiming to have “exposed” a “Congress toolkit” that had gone viral on social media.
Twitter India tagged Patra’s tweet as “manipulated media”.
Friends look at the #CongressToolKit in extending help to the needy during the Pandemic!
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
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) May 18, 2021
In another tweet, which was also tagged a “manipulated tweet” by Twitter, Patra shared a screenshot and accused Congress of trying to destroy Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image with the help of “foreign” journalists by calling the latest mutant strain of Covid-19 as the “Modi strain”.
The next day, Patra tweeted photos and screenshots claiming them to be “evidence” for the toolkit allegedly authored by Saumya Varma, who is a researcher at Congress leader Rajeev Gowda’s office.
Friends yesterday Congress wanted to know who’s the Author of the toolkit.
Pls check the properties of the Paper.
Author: Saumya Varma
Who’s Saumya Varma …
The Evidences speak for themselves:
Will Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi reply? pic.twitter.com/hMtwcuRVLW
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) May 19, 2021
Denying the accusations, Gowda claimed that the toolkit was “fake” and tweeted: “BJP ecosystem indulges in the worst form of cynical politics. Its dirty tricks dept extracted a colleague’s name from our genuine Central Vista document & attributed it to its FAKE ‘toolkit’ She deactivated her SM accounts after online harassment Shame! Take me on, not my team!”
Gowda also accused BJP of using “forged” Covid- 19 mismanagement document “to divert attention from how Modi Sarkar failed India during pandemic.”
Sharing a report by Alt News, which claimed that the Covid toolkit attributed to the Congress was created on a forged letterhead, Gowda claimed that BJP falsely attributed the letterhead of a genuine fact-based document on the Central Vista project to a fake toolkit.
The two alleged documents that went viral were titled “Cornering Narendra Modi & BJP on COVID Management” and “Central Vista Redevelopment: Vanity Project Amidst the Pandemic” which had four screenshots each.
Read this @AltNews investigation. It proves a FORGED letterhead was used to make a FAKE "toolkit" which was amplified by jobless mantris! These BJP criminals then harassed my woman colleague
Why? To distract media from giving a voice to people’s suffering!https://t.co/GGGkgPLzIs
— Rajeev Gowda (@rajeevgowda) May 19, 2021
Following the tag of “manipulated media” by Twitter India on these claims by several BJP leaders, the Delhi Police special cell sent a notice to Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari seeking an explanation behind the tagging.
In the notice, the Delhi Police special cell also asked explanation from Twitter on the “rationale” while sharing all the information on how the tweets on the toolkit qualified as “manipulated media”, according to ANI.
The Delhi Police special cell also asked the social networking giant to remove the tag as the matter was being investigated by a law enforcement agency.
In another notice, the Delhi Police special cell mentioned that Maheshwari was “acquainted with the facts of the matter and are in possession of information with regard to the same”. They sought Maheshwari’s presence at the office the next day for investigation with all the documents.
However, hours later, the Delhi Police raided the Twitter India offices on Monday.
#BanTwitterInIndia has been trending on Twitter since Tuesday morning.
Twitter vs Indian government
The ongoing spat between the microblogging site and the Central government initiated in February.
Twitter denied to abide by the Central government’s order of blocking over 250 accounts which actively posted updates on the farmers’ protest against the three Farm Bills passed during the 2020 monsoon session of Parliament. The Centre issued a notice to Twitter warning it of penal consequences under Section 69A(3) of the Information Technology Act in case of “non-compliance” with the directions to follow Indian laws irrespective of Twitter’s own rules and guidelines.
Further, the Central government again asked the microblogging giant to suspend 1,178 accounts, which they claimed were backed by Pakistan or operated by supporters of the ongoing farmers’ protest from what they term as ‘Khalistan’.
In response, Twitter sent a note to the Indian government stating “tweets must continue to flow” and that their “top priority” was their employees’ safety. The micro-blogging giant also explained their actions, government’s legal orders and their reason of non-compliance of the same through a detailed blog post.
On April 24, Twitter India removed tweets on the Centre’s orders as they were found to be criticising the Central government for the mismanagement of the second wave of Covid-19. The government had directed Twitter to take action on the grounds that the specified tweets violated India’s IT Act 2000.