According to a reply received via RTI, the government has admitted that letters issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to Twitter to remove manipulated media tags from certain tweets had no legal basis.
The manipulated media tag gained huge public attention after Twitter flagged BJP leader Sambit Patra’s tweet regarding an alleged “Congress toolkit” as manipulated media.
Read our analysis of the manipulated media tag here.
The Ministry in a letter dated 21st May 2021, asked Twitter to remove the “manipulated media” tag. The IFF had written to MeitY in this regard, pointing out that nothing in the IT Act and Rules empowers MeitY to do this. There is no statutory basis for such a letter or notice.
MeitY has now admitted that there was indeed no legal basis for the issuance of its letters. In the second letter to Twitter, MeitY had asked Twitter to stop the practice of tagging dubious tweets as “Manipulated Media.”
IFF wrote to the MeitY to refrain from over-reaching its powers and acting beyond its legal ambit. It also called upon Twitter to advance transparency by making its correspondence with the Ministry public.
Present stance of MeitY
The Union Minister of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) Ashwini Vaishnaw informed the Parliament that labeling of user tweets as manipulated media does not come under the purview of IT rules 2021. However, he pointed out that, by doing this Twitter is violating the principle of natural justice and urged Twitter to be transparent and equitable in applying the manipulated media tag.
He further said, According to Twitter, the labeling of certain messages as “Manipulated Media” has been done under their “Synthetic and Manipulated Media Policy.” However, the procedural details of this policy are not made public.
Furthermore, the IT minister emphasized the importance of IT rules. He said, these rules create accountability of intermediary platforms and enhance user safety.