Wednesday, Jul 06, 2022

Covid Toolkit Row| ‘Attempt To Murder Freedom Of Speech’: Congress On Delhi Police’s Raid On Twitter Offices

Delhi Police served a notice to Twitter asking the site to share information based on which it classified a ‘COVID toolkit’ tweet of BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as ‘manipulated media’

Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala PTI File Photo

Lashing out at the BJP over Delhi Police’s raids on Twitter’s offices in the national capital and in Gurgaon, the Congress on Monday said that the incident "exposes lameduck attempts" of BJP leaders to hide a "fraudulent toolkit".

Two teams of Delhi Police’s Special Cell raided Twitter India offices on Monday to serve a notice to the microblogging platform in connection with their probe into a complaint against Twitter over classifying a “COVID toolkit” tweet of BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as “manipulated media”.

On May 18, Patra had tweeted that the Congress allegedly created a “COVID toolkit” to tarnish India’s image and defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Two days later, Twitter had classified Patra’s tweet as “manipulated media”.

Twitter’s tag drew a sharp reaction from the Indian government, which termed the US-based company’s action as “biased”.

Twitter introduced the manipulated media tag on March 5 last year to label tweets that contain edited videos to more sophisticated examples known as “deepfakes”. Repeated violation of the norms set down by the microblogging site has led to a permanent ban on many prominent personalities, including former US president Donald Trump.

Reacting to Monday’s development, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter, "Cowardly raid on @Twitter unleashed by Delhi Police exposes lameduck attempts to hide the fraudulent toolkit by BJP leaders."

Such attempts to "murder" freedom of speech lay bare the BJP's guilt, he said and tagged his video statement on the issue.

In the video statement, Surjewala alleged that the "subjugation of free speech, the attempts to stifle every voice that is a dissenting voice against this government and the state-sponsored fraudulent means to propagate and to instil fear continue unabated in Modi government".

He alleged that the BJP forged documents to produce a "fake toolkit".

The Congress leader claimed that after the toolkit was "exposed", the BJP and the Modi government, being scared of it, was "raiding" Twitter offices both in Delhi and in Gurgaon.
"Why, the guilty people are sitting in BJP headquarters and in seat of power, but, you are raiding Twitter’s office in Delhi and Gurgaon, what is the reason there of?" he said.
Surjewala alleged that the BJP is "running scared of its lies" and getting caught and being branded as manipulated and fraudulent by social media platforms.

Twitter says it "may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated".

In his statement, Surjewala said the intermediary rules, which give the power to the government to direct people to take off various posts, have not even come into play.

"They come into play only on 25th May, 2021 then why the action today? Under what provision of law notices are being issued?" he said.

Surjewala asked that when BJP leaders are being accused of fraud then why is the government standing in shelter thereof.

"None less than the IT Minister himself and half a dozen other ministers have also tweeted this manipulated and fraudulent media. Now they are scared that their lies are going to get exposed and the oath of the constitution that they took will stand annihilated and violated and that’s why social media platforms are being targeted," he alleged.

"Please remember Mr. Prime Minister that free speech and rights to express opinion is our fundamental right in this country," Surejwala said.

"You can’t subjugate the constitution, you can’t stifle free speech and you will not be able to suppress the voice of the young or voice of people of this country," he said.

The government had earlier asked Twitter to remove the 'manipulated media' tag as the matter is pending before a law enforcement agency, and made it clear that the social media platform cannot pass judgment when the issue is under investigation.

BJP leaders, including Patra, have posted numerous tweets to attack the Congress over the purported 'toolkit'.

On May 19, the Congress lodged a police complaint seeking registration of cases against BJP chief J P Nadda, Union minister Smriti Irani, BJP general secretary B L Santosh and Patra over the alleged forgery of documents.

The Chhattisgarh unit of the Congress' students wing NSUI also lodged a complaint against Patra and former chief minister Raman Singh for allegedly "forging" the letterhead of the AICC Research Department and printing "false and fabricated" content on it.

On the basis of the complaint, a case has been filed against Patra and Singh at the Civil Lines police station in Raipur.

(With PTI inputs)