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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Twitter’s labelling of Amit Malviya’s tweet shows the tech major’s narrative manipulation is now out in open

Twitter on Wednesday tagged a tweet by BJP’s Information & Technology department national in-charge Amit Malviya as “manipulated media”. This is a dangerous development which indicates that the open manipulation of news & information flow practised by Twitter and other tech majors like Google and Facebook during the recent US Presidential elections, is now being applied to the Bharatiya socio-political landscape too.

But first let’s analyse the tweets in question.

Malviya was responding to a tweet by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who posted a photo of a policeman with a raised baton apparently about to strike an elderly Sikh farmer walking by, with accompanying text in Hindi that read, “Very saddening photo. Our slogan has always been ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’, but PM Modi’s arrogance has today pitted the jawan (soldier) and kisan (farmer) against each other. This is very dangerous.”

In response, Malviya put out a video titled “Propaganda vs Reality” which showed that the farmer was actually running through a posse of policemen, and the security personnel only raised his baton to scare the farmer, swinging it after the elderly man was comfortably past.

Along with the video, Malviya added the text: “Rahul Gandhi must be the most discredited opposition leader India has seen in a long time.”

Next, let’s analyse the background and context of these protests, to better understand the narrative war.

Farmers, mostly from Punjab, backed by Congress and other opposition parties have congregated on Delhi’s borders over the last week in protest against the recent farm reforms introduced by the centre. They had earlier been protesting in Punjab and managed to completely halt rail traffic through a ‘Rail Roko’ protest. Govt’s offer to move the protesting farmers to a ground in Burari or other designated protest sites (like Jantar Mantar of Ramlila grounds) has been rejected by the protest leaders who insist on marching to the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi, a restricted zone for security reasons.

Clearly, the photo posted by Rahul Gandhi gives one the impression of a lathi charge on protesting farmers. Which never happened. The central government is handling the farmer protests with kid gloves, even though lathi charges are commonplace in the rough & tumble world of Indian law enforcement. For that matter, police did not even hesitate to open fire on Durga Puja processioners in Munger, Bihar recently – an incident which tragically claimed the life of Anurag Poddar. The Munger brutality was uncalled for, and no right-minded citizen can have anything against peaceful protests by farmers, notwithstanding the seditious rabble rousing by certain Khalistani elements who have infiltrated the protests.

But farmers’ demands to congregate and march anywhere they wish in Delhi clearly cannot be entertained, especially after the chaos Delhi witnessed during the Shaheen Bagh protests and the recent Supreme Court ruling that indefinite occupation of a public road as was done by the Shaheen Bagh protestors is unacceptable and caused grave inconvenience to commuters. Right to dissent and free speech is treasured but subject to reasonable restrictions imposed in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and public order said the apex court, although even the SC cannot wash its hands off the whole Shaheen Bagh fiasco.

The farm reforms have been welcomed by most experts who have been battling for such deregulation for decades, and most political parties have also included these reforms in their election manifestoes at some point of time. As with any reform, there will be some losers (middlemen) and a new way of doing things which could be unsettling for some – but the silent majority of farmers have welcomed the reforms which essentially give them more freedom to sell their produce and thus increase incomes.

Thus it is safe to conclude that genuine concerns and misunderstandings notwithstanding, these protests have been fuelled to a large extent by Opposition parties who have fine-tuned this model of 24×7 protests to discredit the central government. Think back to ‘Rising Intolerance’, ‘Student protests’ (FTII, Rohit Vemula suicide), ‘Lynchistan’, ‘Award Wapsi’, ‘Not In My Name’, Rapistan’ (Kathua case), ‘quota demands’ (Jat agitation, Maratha march, Patidar protests), ‘anti-CAA’ : few genuine concerns mixed with a lot of manufactured dissent.

So why is a US MNC like Twitter getting involved in such a partisan, pro-Congress manner in this political narrative war?

Earlier, Twitter and FB manipulation was restricted to shadow banning of influential RW/Hindu accounts, sudden suspensions of accounts like @TrueIndology, and prioritising complaints by left-liberals over those by Hindus. But now their liberal bias is coming out in the open. Labelling Malviya’s tweet as ‘manipulated media’ was the first time this feature has shown up on timelines in Bharat based on Twitter’s “Synthetic and Manipulated Media” policy that was introduced in Feb 2020 ostensibly to fight fake news.

Similar policies were used to censor an election-eve New York Post article containing explosive emails showing business links between a Ukranian company and the Biden family. As HinduPost has argued previously, while covering the brazen pro-Biden intervention by US tech majors Twitter and Facebook, about how Big Tech is censoring news and meddling in elections –

“large private players have now started to censor information for us…they have become centers of power, much like multinational companies in certain sectors became powerful in previous centuries. However, their domination is much more pervasive and the danger to countries much more hidden.

Data is emerging as the new oil. It is all pervasive and can be used to micro manage the lives of humans…..data is controlled by large corporations like Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook. This presents unique and unprecedented challenges for sovereign nations…..Bharat also saw meddling in elections by Cambridge Analytica a few years ago. The dangers of data dependency or data colonization cannot be overstated. This is the reason that nations like China and Russia have created a national digital ecosystem and banned or restricted companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter in their cyberspace and developed their domestic alternatives.”

Moreover, Twitter used an ‘analysis’ by the notorious left-liberal ‘fact-checking’ site BoomLive to justify its decision to tag Malviya’s tweet as “manipulated media.”

Expect more such convergence between US and Indian liberal propaganda outlets and social media platforms in the run up to next year’s crucial state elections and the 2024 general elections in Bharat. The global liberal elites who control media and technology sectors have a shared worldview predicated in unquestioning belief in the superiority of Western universalism and Western ideals like liberalism and secularism. This liberal fascism is more dangerous than your average power-hungry autocrat/dictator because such ‘liberals’ believe they know your best interest better than yourselves and are convinced about their moral superiority much the same as an Abrahamic fundamentalist.

Twitter has also started labelling handles of government-funded media organisations, party operatives and government officials as well. Although these labels have not yet been activated in Bharat, the Russian outlet RT is labelled ‘Russia state-affiliated media’ but BBC which is funded by the UK state, or the Islamist Al Jazeera funded by Qatar carry no such label.

Last month, Twitter had removed Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s display picture in response to a “report from the copyright holder”. Shah’s twitter account was then temporarily locked, due to what a Twitter spokesperson claimed was an ‘inadvertent error.’ That development happened after the government had issued a notice to Twitter for showing Leh as part of Jammu and Kashmir instead of the Union Territory of Ladakh.

In October, a parliamentary panel had come down heavily on Twitter for showing Ladakh in China in its geo-tagging feature. Twitter’s India representatives were questioned for 2 hours by the panel which found Twitter’s explanation inadequate. Twitter later apologised in writing to the panel. Google, FB, Twitter and Apple CEOs have all been grilled in US Congressional hearings over their respective company’s biases and monopolistic behaviour. Bharatiya lawmakers need to do the same and shed whatever inhibitions they may have about such questioning being criticised as ‘attack on free speech’ by Lutyens’ intelligentsia (an undeclared ally of tech giants in this narrative war).

In conclusion, we will again quote from our earlier article –

Bharat needs to frame rules to protect data of its citizens and also invest political, diplomatic and economic capital in creating a national digital ecosystem. History does not give second chances. Hopefully, we have learnt our lessons from our experience as a colonised country.

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