BJP IT cell chief’s post on farmers’ protest tagged as ‘manipulated media’ by Twitter

Twitter on Wednesday flagged as “manipulated media” a 15-second video clip tweeted out by Bharatiya Janata Party IT cell chief Amit Malviya claiming that an elderly farmer had not been attacked by police as alleged by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in his own tweet which accompanied a photograph showing the policeman raising his lathi at the farmer.

Malviya’s may be the first political tweet to be labelled thus, although HT couldn’t independently ascertain this. Twitter officials could not confirm this either.

Malviya did not respond to repeated messages and calls.

Malviya’s tweet with the video, juxtaposed with the photo posted by Gandhi and raising questions on the latter’s credibility was tagged by the social media company with anyone clicking or tapping on the “manipulated media “ tag being taken to tweets by fact checking websites that showed that the farmer had indeed been assaulted (but by a different policeman and shortly before the farmer passed by the one raising his lathi) and also quoting him (the farmer) to this effect.

“The referenced Tweet was labelled based on our Synthetic and Manipulated Media policy. As explained in the policy, in order to determine if media have been significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated, we may use our own technology or receive reports through partnerships with third parties,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

Other people familiar with the matter said that while Twitter does not have a fact-checking policy, it uses its own team and third party partnerships to determine whether media has been significantly manipulated.

The video in question was not first posted by Malviya but by a Twitter handle called Political Kida.

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The video and the photograph were shot at a Delhi border where thousands of farmers, who have marched from Punjab toward the national capital to protest against new farm legislation they say will hurt their interests, are camped. It dates back to November 28. 

Posting the photographs on Twitter on November 28, Gandhi tweeted in Hindi that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “arrogance has turned farmer against soldier”. The tweet termed this a “dangerous” trend.

Twitter’s action provoked a strong response on the platform itself. While some praised it, others criticised it for targeting Malviya.

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