Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national information technology chief Amit Malviya and some Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) office-bearers are at loggerheads, and it's all over a tiny Twitter icon. The much-coveted Twitter blue tick, or badge" a certificate of authenticity for accounts of public interest"has triggered friction between the former banker and several BJYM officer-bearers.
The trouble relates to eight BJYM accounts verified by Twitter a few days ago, and then 'de-verified' this week at Malviya's insistence. It began on 13 October, when Twitter told BJYM national president Poonam Mahajan it had verified the accounts of BJYM office-bearers at her request. Malviya's office swung into action, informing Twitter that the handles had not been "vetted via the BJP internal process".
Twitter then sent another letter to Mahajan, informing her that "in fact, our SOP [standard operating procedure] is to route the requests through Mr Malviya's office. We don't want to get into the internal dynamics of the BJP; so we request you and Mr Malviya to discuss it internally."
Twitter further stated it had been asked to 'de-verify' some of the accounts, and listed certain alternatives to avoid problems in future. "Twitter can look into de-verifying the accounts. This is normally a very drastic move by Twitter and some of these accounts will then not be considered for verification for a substantial period of time," the letter read.
Twitter then proposed an alternative: "If the @username is changed by the account holder, the badge is lost. In this case, it is a natural loss of the tick and isn't flagged in our system as request for de-verification."
According to Twitter, "An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest. Typically, this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas." The verified badge does not imply an endorsement by Twitter, but it does add value to the account by making it different from general unverified accounts; it's seen by most as a sort of celebrity status.
In total, 22 accounts were flagged by Malviya's office for 'de-verification'. Three days after Malviya's request to Twitter, the accounts of eight BJYM members were 'de-verified'.
The eight 'de-verified' accounts are:
Kapil Parmar, national-in-charge, social media and IT, BJYM
Charu Pragya, national-in-charge (legal), co-in-charge UP, BJYM
Shivam Chhabra, national media-in-charge, BJYM
Digvijay Singh, national-in-charge, study circle, BJYM
Neha Joshi, national media co-in-charge, BJYM
Devang Dave, national convener, IT and social media committee, BJYM
Priya Sharma, national co-in-charge, study circle, BJYM
Anant Prakash, member, study circle, BJYM
One of the office-bearers who lost the blue tick said, "The verification of the account is not for some self-gratification. With verified accounts, we are in a better position to make people aware about the government's welfare policies and other important decisions that concern the common man." The BJYM member added, "The blue tick helps people differentiate between genuine and fake accounts. Often, fake and parody accounts are used to peddle propaganda and fake news. I don't understand the point of getting these accounts 'de-verified' when Twitter was okay with it".
Calls and text messages to Malviya by Firstpost for comment went unanswered.
Malviya's decision is being seen as a snub by the BJYM members, who have now written to the BJP top brass, including national president Amit Shah and key Cabinet ministers. The letter states how the BJYM IT team took several initiatives to inform people about the Modi government's "welfare programmes and policies" and worked hard to get the accounts verified, which "increased the party's presence on social media".
Accusing an "egoistic" Malviya of deliberately "demoralising the karyakartas (workers) across the country", the office-bearers said, "Unfortunately, Amit Malviya ji's ego seems to have been hurt as he wrote a personal mail and used his clout to get all the accounts de-verified by Twitter. This is a deliberate attempt to break the party and demoralise karyakartas across the country."