IT Ministry reportedly asked Twitter to put its manipulated media policy on hold in a letter sent in May

Earlier this week, Twitter lost its “safe harbour” immunity in India over its failure to appoint statutory officers, as required by the government’s new IT rules. On Thursday, it appointed an interim chief compliance officer in India. In the past few weeks, Twitter has faced multiple police actions, especially in the Loni assault case, primarily for not "removing false tweets" and not tagging content as "manipulated media". Now, the International Freedom Foundation (IFF) has reportedly found that the Indian government sent a letter to Twitter on 21 May asking it to put its Manipulated Media policy on hold.

The IFF says that through an RTI request with the IT Ministry, it was able to access two letters that were sent from the Ministry to Twitter, asking it to remove its "manipulated media" tags from tweets of certain political leaders referring to an alleged "toolkit".

The digital rights organisation found that in the first letter, the IT Ministry claimed that the 'toolkit' case was already under investigation, and tagging certain tweets about it as manipulated media was "pre-judged, prejudiced, and a deliberate attempt to colour the investigation". The Ministry reportedly asked Twitter to remove the manipulated media tag from certain tweets.

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IFF also says that Twitter had sent a response to this letter outlining its policy regarding synthetic and manipulated media.

On 25 May, the IT Ministry reportedly sent another letter to Twitter saying that the company's policies are opaque and they "violate the principle of natural justice". The Ministry apparently also said that tagging a tweet as manipulated media makes the user lose their opportunity to be heard.

In turn, the Ministry reportedly asked Twitter to put its 'Synthetic and Manipulated Media policy' on hold entirely until the investigation is complete.

However, IFF highlights that neither of the letters cite any provision under which such requests can be made by the government.

The digital rights organisation also points out that as per the IT Act, 2000 or the new IT rules, nothing empowers the Ministry to ask Twitter to remove or put a hold on its manipulated media tags/policy.

(Also read: Legal protection of Twitter as intermediary is not absolute, it is compliance-oriented)

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