Hours after two police teams descended on Twitter’s offices in Delhi and Gurgaon after serving notices to the social media firm over the circulation of an alleged ‘Congress toolkit’, the Congress called it a ‘cowardly raid’ that ‘exposes lameduck attempts’ to hide a ‘fraudulent toolkit’ by BJP leaders.
The Delhi Police’s Special Cell on Monday sent a notice to Twitter India in connection with the probe into a complaint about an alleged COVID toolkit, asking it to share information based on which it had classified a related tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as “manipulated media”, officials said.
Police said they visited Twitter’s two offices in Lado Sarai in Delhi and another in Gurgaon to serve the notice in person as per protocol, when they received “ambiguous” replies from the company.
“Instead of cooperating with law enforcement, Twitter has tried to play victim by mischievously overplaying a routine procedure this time,” a government source told a news website.
Delhi police has defended the visit saying they wanted to find the right person to serve the notice to as replies by Twitter India’s managing director were not clear.
The incident has drawn sharp criticism from the Congress and other opposition parties.
Reacting to the development, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted, “Cowardly raid on @Twitter unleashed by Delhi Police exposes lameduck attempts to hide the fraudulent toolkit by BJP leaders.”
He said such attempts to “murder” freedom of speech lay bare the BJP’s guilt, and tagged his video statement on the issue.
In the video statement, Surjewala said “subjugation of free speech, the attempts to stifle every voice that is a dissenting voice against this government and the state-sponsored fraudulent means to propagate and to instill fear continue unabated in Modi government”.
He alleged that the BJP forged documents to produce a “fake toolkit”.
The Congress leader claimed that after the toolkit was “exposed”, the BJP and the Modi government, being scared of it, was “raiding” Twitter offices both in Delhi and in Gurgaon.
“Why, the guilty people are sitting in BJP headquarters and in seat of power, but you are raiding Twitter’s office in Delhi and Gurgaon, what is the reason there of?” he said.
Surjewala alleged that the BJP is “running scared of its lies” and getting caught and being branded as manipulated and fraudulent by social media platforms.
The BJP had accused the Congress of creating a toolkit meant to tarnish the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the handling of the COVID pandemic. However, the Congress denied the allegation and claimed that the BJP is propagating a fake toolkit to defame it.
Last week, Twitter labelled as “manipulated media” a tweet by Patra on the alleged toolkit. Twitter says it “may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated”.
Friends look at the #CongressToolKit in extending help to the needy during the Pandemic!
More of a PR exercise with the help of “Friendly Journalists” & “Influencers” than a soulful endeavour.
Read for yourselves the agenda of the Congress:#CongressToolKitExposed pic.twitter.com/3b7c2GN0re
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) May 18, 2021
In his statement, Surjewala said the intermediary rules, which give the power to the government to direct people to take off various posts, have not even come into play.
“They come into play only on 25th May, 2021 then why the action today? Under what provision of law notices are being issued?” he said.
“Please remember Mr Prime Minister that free speech and rights to express opinion is our fundamental right in this country,” Surejwala said. “You can’t subjugate the constitution, you can’t stifle free speech and you will not be able to suppress the voice of the young or voice of people of this country,” he said.
The CPI(M) also alleged that the central government was using the Delhi Police to “intimidate” Twitter for “political purposes”. “Priority of these times is to focus on providing healthcare, medicines and vaccines. Union Home Minister instead unleashes Delhi Police on a social media platform to intimidate it for petty and partisan political purposes.Inhuman. Shameful,” tweeted CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
The government had earlier asked Twitter to remove the manipulated media tag as the matter is pending before a law enforcement agency, and made it clear that the social media platform cannot pass judgment when the issue is under investigation.
BJP leaders, including Patra, have posted numerous tweets to attack the Congress over the purported toolkit.
On May 19, the Congress lodged a police complaint seeking registration of cases against BJP chief J P Nadda, Union minister Smriti Irani, BJP general secretary BL Santosh and Patra over the alleged forgery of documents.
The Chhattisgarh unit of the Congress students wing NSUI also lodged a complaint against Patra and former chief minister Raman Singh for allegedly “forging” the letterhead of the AICC Research Department and printing “false and fabricated” content on it. On the basis of the complaint, a case has been filed against Patra and Singh at the Civil Lines police station in Raipur.
(With inputs from agencies)