Police in India raided the offices of Twitter India in Delhi and Gurgaon on Monday as part of an investigation into why tweets about a so-called “toolkit” of information about the coronavirus were labeled as manipulated media, The Indian Express reported. An officer told the media outlet that police had sent a notice to Twitter demanding an explanation for the label on a ruling party member’s tweet, and that it was seeking “information Twitter has about the toolkit and why they chose to give the ‘manipulated media’ label.”
Twitter declined to comment Monday. TechCrunch reported that there were no Twitter employees in the offices at the time of the raid, which occurred late Monday evening India Standard Time. Journalist Aditya Raj Kaul tweeted that Twitter employees in India are currently working remotely.
On Friday, the Indian government sent a notice to Twitter two days after the social media platform applied the “manipulated media” label to a tweet by Sambit Patra, of India’s ruling BJP party. Patra said in the tweet, which appears to have been removed, that the opposition party Congress had used a “toolkit” in attempts to undermine the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The government asked Twitter to remove the label out of “fairness and equity.”
The BJP party says the Congress party created the toolkit to damage Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to the Times of India, but the Congress party claims the version of the toolkit the BJP shared was a falsified version of a research note about an unrelated project. Indian fact-checking organization Alt News found that the images of the so-called “COVID toolkit” that Patra and others tweeted about did have some falsified information.
Twitter introduced its manipulated media policy last February, which applies to media shared on its platform that has been “significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated.” Video clips or images that have been altered to change their meaning or context could get a label, and false content presented as true or content found to be “likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm” could be removed entirely under the rules. Twitter applied the label to several tweets by former US President Donald Trump, who has since been banned from the platform.
India’s government has tried to keep tight control over information on social media concerning the spread of COVID-19. Last month, the government ordered Twitter to remove tweets and told Facebook and Instagram to take down posts that were critical of its handling of the pandemic. And in March, India’s government threatened to jail Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter employees in the country if they failed to comply with its requests to take down content about protests by farmers. Twitter ended up permanently blocking more than 500 accounts and removing others from being visible within the country following a notice of noncompliance from the government.
According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, India reported 222,315 new cases of COVID-19 and 4,454 new deaths on Monday.