Amit Malviya has been verified on a deceptive video of police violence in Delhi.
Twitter on Wednesday put a ‘manipulated media’ tag on a video that the head of the social media department of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party tweeted. Tagging tweets is nothing new – since March Twitter has been putting them on inaccurate tweets American politicians, including President Donald Trump.
But this was the first time the company tagged a tweet from a prominent Indian politician, signaling that it may finally be ready to do what critics having asked American social media platforms to do for years – apply the same standards to the rest of the world as they do to the United States.
The three-second clip was tweeted by Amit Malviya, who is popular for publishing disinformation as part of his party’s propaganda machine. It shows a member of the Delhi Police Force swinging a baton at a farmer, one of the thousands who brave tear gas, water cannons and police barricades. protest new agricultural policies in India.
The policeman in the clip is missing. According to the caption of the video, “the police did not even touch the farmer”. Malviya’s tweet left the false impression that the police had not injured the man.
But other members of the police attacked the man immediately after the video clip was cut. Fact-checking websites mentionned a longer version of the video shows a second policeman swinging towards the farmer, who later showed his injuries to the hurry.
Twitter also applied tag to other instances of the same video tweeted by other people.
Malviya did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News, but a Twitter spokesperson said he violated company policies against doctored media.
“The referenced tweet has been tagged according to our Synthetic and Manipulated Media Policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. Clicking on the tag takes people to a site created by Twitter abstract debunks by fact checkers and links to these debunks.
Politics, as Twitter ad in February, defines “Synthetic and manipulated media” in the form of images or videos that have been “significantly altered or created in a way that changes the original meaning / purpose, or gives the impression that certain events have occurred that do not did not actually happen ”. The company applied first the label in March on a deceptively edited video of current President-elect Joe Biden, shared by White House social media director Dan Scavino, and retweeted by the US president, and has since applied it to several tweets from Trump.
But even though the Twitter spokesperson said the policy was “applied worldwide,” the company declined to cite other examples of the label being applied to accounts in non-Western markets. (In the past, Twitter has deleted or hidden tweets from the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Brazilian politician Osmar Terra for violating its policy against coronavirus disinformation.)
Digital rights activists have long argued that U.S. tech companies have not done enough to prevent the damage their platforms cause outside the United States and Europe. Platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and YouTube have been accused not only of polarizing political discourse, but also of fueling ethnic massacres in South Sudan, lynchings in India, and genocide in Myanmar.
“When it comes to labeling disinformation and manipulated content, companies are starting to do more, but they still need to do better outside the United States,” said Dia Kayyali, associate director of advocacy at Mnemonic, a human rights organization. “We’ve seen them dedicate enormous resources to the United States and act with more content than anyone could have imagined. Unfortunately, so far, they haven’t spent as many resources outside of the United States. “
In India, experts say Twitter was forced to tag Malviya’s tweet after it was constantly called out by the press, fact-checkers and people on social media. “This is the result of sustained criticism for years,” Pratik Sinha, editor-in-chief of Alt News, an Indian fact-checking website, told BuzzFeed News. But, he said, “this is a first step. It is too early to be happy.
It is also too early to see what results the label could have. Tagging a tweet from a prominent member of India’s ruling party could spark backlash in a country Twitter sees as a key growth market.
BJP politicians accused Twitter of having “bias»Against the Conservatives. Last year Colin Cromwell, vice president of global public policy at Twitter, posted a blog post titled “Setting the Facts on Twitter India and Fairness.” Three days later, an Indian parliamentary committee wire rack the Indian leaders of the company on the alleged prejudices of the company.
The tag is also important because the video Malviya tweeted was a response to a tweet from Rahul Gandhi, an opposition leader from India’s National Congress, the country’s oldest political party and a rival to the BJP – which means Twitter says a party’s facts are wrong.
Twitter declined to provide details on why it decided to tag Malviya’s tweet in particular. “In order to determine if the media has been modified or fabricated in a meaningful and deceptive manner, we may use our own technology or receive reports through partnerships with third parties,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
“BJP members,” Kayyali said, “cannot say what they want just because they are politicians.”