Twitter’s decision to label a tweet from a leading member of India’s governing party as “manipulated media” could make things even harder for the company in a key market.
Police visited Twitter’s offices in the capital Delhi and nearby city of Gurugram late on Monday to order the social media giant to cooperate with an investigation into a tweet posted earlier this month by a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The tweet was posted May 18 by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra. It included a picture of a document that he said was created by the country’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress. The picture listed tips on how to discredit Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Patra claimed that the document was a “PR exercise” by the Congress party with the help of “friendly journalists” and “influencers.” Congress said that BJP leaders were spreading “forged documents” and complained to the local police and Twitter.
Twitter labeled the tweet as “manipulated media” on Friday. On its website, the social media company says that it “may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated.”
Delhi police issued a notice to Twitter India’s managing director, Manish Maheshwari, that same day, stating that a “preliminary inquiry” was being conducted into the document that Patra attributed to the Congress party. In a statement Monday, police confirmed the visit to Twitter’s offices, adding that the move was “part of a routine process.”
“This was necessitated as we wanted to ascertain who is the right person to serve a notice,” the police said, adding that “replies” from Maheshwari “have been very ambiguous.”
Twitter did not respond to requests for comment from CNN Business. Twitter does not share user numbers, but according to India, the platform has 17.5 million users in the country.
The Indian government and Twitter have clashed on a handful of issues this year as authorities crack down on dissent in the country. The tension has raised questions about censorship in India and left social media firms such as Twitter in a tough spot.
In February, for example, the government ordered Twitter to take down many accounts as farmers protested Modi’s new agriculture laws. While Twitter ultimately complied with part of the order, it refused to take action against journalists, activists or politicians.
And in April, the platform removed several tweets about Covid-19 at the request of the Indian government, including some that were critical of Modi’s handling of a brutal second wave of the pandemic.
Social media giants in India have until the end of this month to comply with new, stricter rules that were issued earlier this year.
The rules require any social media company to create three roles: a “compliance officer” who will ensure the platform follows local laws; a “grievance officer” who will address complaints from Indian users; and a “contact person” available to Indian law enforcement 24 hours a day.
It’s not clear whether Twitter has filled those roles yet.