Twitter face-off may be first test of Indian government's Social Media rules that kick in tomorrow

25th May 2021
Twitter face-off may be first test of Indian government's  Social Media rules that kick in tomorrow

May 25 2021: Rules to guide social media intermediaries  that the government of India notified  two months ago, take effect tomorrow, against the background of a government-Twitter faceoff.  
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021  (key provisions in the government’s announcement here) impose multiple clauses for  compliance on  what it calls  ‘Significant social media intermediaries’ such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube.
A key provision reads:  An intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge in the form of an order by a court or being notified by the appropriate government or its agencies should not host or publish any information which is prohibited under any law in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries etc.
The ongoing confrontation of Twitter after it labeled a tweet by a BJP spokesperson as manipulated media,  escalated yesterday after the police visited the Delhi offices of Twitter. The sequence of events that led to this, is outlined below with links to Indian media stories and opinion pieces on the developments.
The Telegraph: Covid: Sambit Patra's Cong 'toolkit' tweet marked as 'manipulated media'Twitter..labelled as “manipulated media” BJP leader Sambit Patra’s post on what he had claimed was a Congress “toolkit” on Covid, indicating that the contents had been “deceptively altered or fabricated”.The Congress had on Thursday complained to Twitter against Patra, BJP chief J.P. Nadda and other leaders of the ruling party for allegedly circulating forged documents, spreading misinformation and trying to create disharmony in society, and demanded their accounts be permanently suspended….By Friday evening, government sources began claiming that the ministry of electronics and information technology had written to Twitter to remove the “manipulated media” tag from Patra’s tweet, saying the matter was pending for investigation before the police. 
Times of India: BJP accuses Twitter of bias, wants Centre to take action: Taking exception to Twitter labelling his tweets … as “manipulated media”, senior BJP functionary Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said the conduct of the social media giant was biased ..
The Print: Government Asks Twitter To Drop 'Manipulated Media' Tag on Sambit Patra's Congress ‘Toolkit’ Tweet In language reminiscent of the Trump administration’s threats against Twitter last year, the Centre says Twitter’s legal status as an intermediary might be called into question if it does not accede to official demands.
The Union government has objected to Twitter labelling as “manipulated media” a tweet containing screenshots of a purported Congress ‘toolkit’ by BJP chief spokesperson Sambit Patra, saying that the matter is pending investigation before a law enforcement agency and amounts to the company prejudging the outcome.
“The Ministry of Electronics and IT has written a strong communication to the global team of Twitter, registering its objection to the use of ‘manipulated media’ tag on certain tweets made by Indian political leaders with reference to a toolkit created to undermine, derail and demean the efforts of the government against the COVID-19 pandemic,” an unidentified ministry source was quoted by PTI as saying.
Times of India: ‘Bullying Twitter sends a bad message to tech companies looking to invest in India’. Digital activists and experts said that the manner in which   the Delhi Police special cell went to "serve a notice" to Twitter offices on Monday was meant to “bully” the company… "Neither MEITY nor Delhi Police are empowered by any law to object to such labelling…
Deccan Herald: Facebook, Twitter to be blocked in India? New social media rules to come into effect from May 26  Social Media Intermediary rules 2021, aimed at regulating digital content featuring a code of ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal framework, is applicable from May 26 even as global social media giants — Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have sought six more months to comply.
OPINION:   Financial Express: In a twist over a tweet: Asking Twitter to drop manipulated media tag problematic: The flagging has not been done at random but is within the scope of a specific policy Twitter has in place to deal with posts containing content which has been “substantially edited” or shared “deceptively”. This is the same policy applied to flag posts from the account of the then US President Donald Trump as “disputed” when he asserted widespread “election fraud”. 
OPINION The Hindu: Character challenge: On GoI's directive to TwitterThe Centre’s directive to Twitter to remove ‘manipulated media’ tag on posts is illegal… But it reveals that the Government of India is willing to go to any lengths to empower BJP functionaries to tarnish political opponents and misinform the public