Twitter reports misleading post by Indian government official

Twitter has flagged a post from a leading figure in India’s ruling party as misleading content as the social media platform expands its campaign against disinformation around the world.

This is the first time the company has targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party Bharatiya Janata, potentially putting him on a collision course with New Delhi.

Twitter said the Publish directed by Amit Malviya, chief information and technology officer of the BJP, was identified on Wednesday as “manipulated media”.

The post, intended to discredit a widely circulated photo in which a policeman punched an elderly farmer protesting against the government, included a video that appeared to show the man’s baton was missing.

The move marks a push by Twitter to campaign against disinformation in major markets around the world after confronting US President Donald Trump for tweeting false information during the presidential election.

India, with a population of 1.4 billion, is Twitter’s largest market, according to App Annie. The company is also an investor in ShareChat, a popular video sharing social app in India.

“It’s quite important, there has been a sharp increase in the number of political parties that carry out disinformation campaigns,” said Maya Mirchandani, assistant professor at Ashoka University, investigating political hate speech.

“We’ll have to wait and see what Twitter does next,” she said. “I can guarantee you that this is not going to please the ruling party well.”

Mr Malviya responded by tweeting that “the market for ideas is a better engine to sort truth from lies than self-proclaimed gatekeepers. . . big tech companies would serve themselves better by not sinking deeper into this political thicket. He did not respond to a request for comment.

“The referenced tweet was tagged based on our synthetic and manipulated media policy,” Twitter said, referring to the company’s February 2020 policy which says it tags tweets that “mislead or deceive people ”.

In the past year, Twitter has also deleted tweets from the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela regarding the coronavirus allegations. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro praised the benefits of the drug hydroxychloroquine, while Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro promoted a “natural drink” to cure Covid-19.

Shivam Shankar Singh, former data analyst at BJP and author of How to win an Indian election, said Twitter reporting Mr. Malviya was akin to a wake-up call against the ruling party.

“He is quite powerful and quite famous within the party,” Mr. Singh said of Mr. Malviya. “But it’s not like they [Twitter] marked the Prime Minister.

Mr Singh added that it would be “extremely important” if Twitter monitored politicians’ tweets more, but warned that “if Twitter only does it once or twice, it won’t matter.”

Social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp and, to a lesser extent, Twitter have been key to the rise of Mr. Modi’s BJP, which has built networks on Silicon Valley platforms to disseminate information that has been criticized as false news and divisive propaganda.

“The BJP has used social media as a way to dominate the conversation, there are so many accounts trolling you for anything you say against the ruling party,” Singh said. “It is an effective tool for controlling the opposition.

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