The Centre’s directive to Twitter to remove ‘manipulated media’ tag on posts is illegal
Twitter has not complied with the Centre’s directive, and at least six handles of BJP functionaries now have posts with the tag ‘manipulated media’. The reasoning behind the directive, in the absence of any legal provision to cite, by the Government of India is baffling. It has argued that the labelling was a “prejudged, prejudiced and a deliberate attempt to colour the investigation by local law enforcement agency”. By this metric, a private company must allow what it has determined as problematic content, until a state agency concurs. Twitter has a publicised policy that it may label tweets that include media that have been deceptively altered or fabricated. It could use its own mechanism or use third party services to make that determination. Twitter is a private entity whose relationship with users is guided by its terms of services. The IT Act that empowers the government to regulate content does not give it the power to order the removal of a label. Additionally, the government move raises serious concerns regarding arbitrary censorship and transparency. The Centre’s desperation to control any discussion on its failures, and shift the focus on to the Opposition is leading to such situations that embarrass a democracy. Rather than intimidate a private company, the BJP and the Centre should discipline its functionaries into more civility and truthfulness in their engagement with critics.
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