A tweet by BJP’s social media chief Amit Malviya has been flagged as “manipulated media” by Twitter. Many pointed out in tweets that this is the first instance of the social media site calling out “fake news” in India.
Amit Malviya had on November 28 posted a fact-check tweet on the image of an elderly farmer during a lathi-charge by policemen in Haryana during the protests that started last week.
The image, posted by several Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi, showed a cop swinging a baton at the farmer who was trying to dodge the blow.
Mr Malviya, responding to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet, posted a “propaganda vs reality” tweet with a video of the same still with the caption: “Rahul Gandhi must be the most discredited opposition leader India has seen in a long long time”. The video showed the cop raising the baton but the farmer escaping the blow.
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) November 28, 2020
But fact-check website Alt News put out a longer video of the same incident, which showed policemen raining blows on protesters. Mr Malviya was accused by critics of using a cropped video.
Full video pic.twitter.com/xXTiIzyufk
— Rahul (@rk4everrr) November 28, 2020
Twitter’s “synthetic and manipulated media policy” says: “You may not deceptively promote synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm. In addition, we may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context.”
The site also said it “may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated”. While it said in most cases the action was restricted to labeling, media that check all three warning boxes — are synthetic or manipulated, are shared in a deceptive manner, and are likely to cause harm – can be removed.
Twitter’s move led to a flurry of reactions, with rivals Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) commenting it was a first in India.
Twitter has started tagging fake news on Twitter India and guess who is the first person to take this honor from India?@amitmalviya, the kingpin of Fake News Factory in India.
Funny days ahead. pic.twitter.com/agWZwTCXRi
— Kapil (@kapsology) December 2, 2020
— Lavanya Ballal | ಲಾವಣ್ಯ ಬಲ್ಲಾಳ್ (@LavanyaBallal) December 2, 2020
Bhai @amitmalviya, any thoughts on becoming first Indian to be labelled by twitter as “Manipulated Media.??
Are you planning to quit Twitter in protest? pic.twitter.com/oxQosTFoiR
— Sumit Kashyap (@sumitkashyapjha) December 2, 2020
Many users complained that Twitter had not put up any warning on Rahul Gandhi’s tweet, yet had labelled Mr Malviya’s post as manipulated.
It has been pointed out by many users that the videos don’t really make it clear whether the farmer was hit during the protest. In photos instagrammed by the PTI photographer Ravi Choudhary, who took the original photo tweeted by Rahul Gandhi, the elderly man seems to be hit on the shin, though it could have been at the hands of a different cop.
Rahul Gandhi posted a fake pic/half truth : No warning @amitmalviya exposed him posting the video : Warning of Manipulated media
— Mr Sinha (@MrSinha_) December 2, 2020
We all know the image of the cop beating the farmer is fake. But guess what @Twitter does. They label the fact-check as fake & the fake news goes unchecked. Precursor to full scale election interference pic.twitter.com/R0kz1C9KE7
— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) December 2, 2020
It has been pointed out by many users that the videos don’t really make it clear whether the farmer was hit during the protest. In images instagrammed by the PTI photographer Ravi Choudhary, who took the original photo tweeted by Rahul Gandhi, the elderly man seems to be hit on the shin, though it could have been at the hands of a different cop.
Choudhary was quoted by Alt News as saying: “I clicked the picture from the other side and it cannot be said with certainty whether the baton touched the farmer or not because there was a lot of commotion at the time. The police were lathi-charging at the protestors and the farmer was running in the other direction to save himself. He may have been hit by another cop earlier if not this one.”
As thousands of farmers marched towards Delhi last week for their protest against the centre’s new farm laws, they faced teargassing, batons and water cannons at several points in Haryana, which used heavy force to try and block them.