Earlier this week, Sambit Patra, the national spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), tweeted the recently released toolkit, a five-page document, allegedly created by India’s National Congress.
As thousands of handfuls shared the document as pictures yesterday (May 20), Twitter began labeling many of the tweets as “manipulated media.” To avoid technical gibberish, Twitter called the entire toolbox and its alleged allegiance to Congress a lie.
While the definition of Twitter is to be taken at face value, any tweet that is altered or fabricated in a manner that is deceptive and likely to impact public safety and cause serious harm will likely be characterized as manipulative or, in some cases, could be deleted.
The green light for the decision to tag any tweet can be derived from a fact-check conducted by a few websites or portals made up of Twitter. It is also possible that Twitter itself chooses to censor certain content, based on internal research and regulations. The mechanism remains vague and without transparency or accountability.
In January of this year, Twitter suspended the account of former US President Donald Trump following the violence on Capitol Hill. Explaining the decision on Twitter, platform CEO Jack Dorsey said the call was taken after they had the “best information available.”
The thread was surprising for many reasons. First, Dorsey made it clear that if people don’t agree with the rules and how they are enforced, they should go with a different platform. Second, he said that while it might feel the same, a business (Twitter, in this context) choosing to moderate was not the same as the government restricting access to information, thus allowing a convenient escape.
This is where the problem of Big Tech interference in domestic politics begins. Twitter or any other website like Google, Facebook (WhatsApp and Instagram included), Amazon and Apple may want to underestimate their importance in digital communication to make a difficult call, this does not exempt them from ensuring an open platform. and transparent.
Big Tech today plays an important role in government communication, and therefore access to critical information for citizens. This includes informal communication from political parties, businesses, individuals and other social entities, as well as all forms of official outreach, from the president or prime minister to the law enforcement agency responsible for the issues. local.
For them, to apologize for an explanation saying that it is a business decision is unacceptable.
Moreover, it goes beyond communication on social networks. Google and Apple, by virtue of their monopoly on the mobile app market, can tomorrow censor any app from any department or level of government. Amazon or Microsoft can deny customers access to web services or censor them completely if they don’t agree with their political ideology.
Facebook can go ahead and ban any entity, political party or business from running any advertisements or marketing campaigns on any of its platforms, citing arbitrary reasons. Twitter is already censoring tweets and could do the same for live broadcasts and the media. Google could restrict visibility to articles that champion the cause of one political ideology while amplifying the other.
Put simply, if Big Tech wants to interfere with national politics, it can be unimaginable.
This is where the problem begins.
Assuming Twitter uses internal research or the best information available to it, what is the mechanism followed to censor or tag a tweet? Are the creators of the tweet contacted? Are they warned to explain themselves or the content of their tweet? Does the information take into account the context of the tweet and compare it with data from the past few months or years, if applicable?
Assuming Twitter is using the services of a third-party fact-checking service, what procedure is in place to determine the ideal fact-checker? How is the political neutrality of the fact-checker determined? How do you make sure the fact-checker sets the right precedent by checking every political tweet ever posted? Can a fact checker censor a tweet that attacks bitcoin for its volatility? Can a fact-checker attack an individual for their political beliefs (yes, obviously)?
Censorship of certain accounts and tagging of tweets follows the same patterns we saw in the United States in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Trump’s tweets have been censored, labeled as manipulated, or labeled as justifying a fact. Check. Eventually it ended on Twitter, arbitrarily, throwing Trump out.
As the author argued last year, can Twitter decode this “absolute truth” for every 6,000 tweets created per second, roughly 360,000 tweets per minute, for every 500 million tweets created in a day and for every 200 billion tweets created every year?
They obviously can’t, and this is where the tagging of Sambit Patra’s tweet becomes a problem.
By conveniently tagging a tweet, a social media platform, independently or influenced by a fact-checker, belittles, ignores, and dismisses the point of view on one side. It can harm a political party, a government, a business and an individual.
Second, when the tweet in question is disputed information, context becomes important and a platform cannot jump into interpreting the context of every word or medium posted on the platform.
Third, selective fact checking also creates an incorrect perception which may be biased against a political, economic, cultural, social or regional aspect.
This labeling company is simply celebrating the idea of selling incomplete interpretations to define an entire conversation. From politics to economics and national issues to local issues, this practice can be dangerous.
Also, can Twitter serve as both a portal and a publisher? If he wants to act like the latter, can he be held responsible for arbitrary censorship decisions?
Assuming this trend is allowed to happen, will Internet service providers tomorrow be able to be both a host of services and a regulator of the websites that people can visit? Can Google and Apple do this with apps? Where do you draw the line for self-proclaimed publishers?
The consequences of Big Tech’s interference in politics are immense. Given that India will be home to one billion internet users by 2024, this interference may, intentionally or unintentionally, facilitate the trafficking of false narratives, the suppression of perspectives on one side, the influence of voters, the censorship of voices of journalists and the amplification of causes that correspond to the interests of big technology.
The Indian government needs to nip this problem in the bud. If the Modi government can go so far as to ban Huawei and ZTE from 5G trials in India, there is no reason why it cannot hold Twitter accountable for its arbitrary actions, for banning accounts professing their political ideology. from center-right to tagging tweets regardless of the whole political context.
Should Twitter be banned right away in India, as many hysterical users are quick to ask?
Should Twitter and the entire Big Tech community be held accountable for their indulgence and interference in matters of national politics and politics?
Yes, before it’s too late.
Twitter may want to see itself as just another midsize business operating in India, but its reach and importance in digital communication says otherwise.
However, if they want to moderate and regulate content like a normal business, nothing stops and goes wrong with the Indian government banning the business and hence the platform as it is all about from another company.
Dorsey, in his post-Trump account suspensions thread, said people can choose any other internet service. The Modi government, citing the same thread and the same logic, may ask Dorsey to find any other free market of a billion potential users as well.