Toolkit row: Delhi Police notice to Cong leaders; Cong asks Twitter to take action on tweets of union ministers

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New Delhi, May 25 (PTI) The Delhi Police has issued notices to Congress social media head Rohan Gupta and party spokesperson MV Rajeev Gowda asking them to join the probe into their complaint which had accused BJP leaders including Sambit Patra of posting a forged ‘toolkit’ attributed to the opposition party.

The row over the purported ‘COVID toolkit’ escalated after the Delhi Police's Special Cell visited two Twitter India offices on Monday and served a notice, asking it to share information based on which it had classified a related tweet by Patra as “manipulated media”.

The police action drew sharp criticism from the opposition Congress and Left which accused the government of trying to stifle free speech and indulge in intimidation.

Using the hashtag 'Toolkit', Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday tweeted, 'Truth remains unafraid'.

Upping the ante, his party demanded that the microblogging site affix the 'manipulated media' tag to similar tweets of union ministers as it did to the post by Patra.

The BJP had last week accused the Congress of creating the 'toolkit' on how to tarnish the image of the country and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Congress had denied the allegation and Gupta and Gowda had filed a police complaint here claiming that the BJP is propagating the 'fake toolkit'' to defame their party.

Officials said a preliminary inquiry into the Congress leaders' complaint is still being carried out by the Delhi Police's Special Cell team and no FIR has been registered in the matter yet.

'These are not fresh notices. These notices were served last week (to Gupta and Gowda) based on a complaint received from the Congress. They were asked to join the probe so that it could help us in carrying the investigation forward,' an officer said 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'.

The Congress had claimed it was a vindication of its stand.

But the government had asked Twitter to remove the 'manipulated media' tag as the matter is pending before the law enforcement agency, and made it clear that the social media platform cannot pass judgment when the issue is under investigation.

Delhi Police had said that it appears that Twitter has some information 'which is not known to us and on the basis of which they have classified it (Patra's tweet) as such'.

'This information is relevant to the inquiry. The Special Cell, which is conducting the inquiry, wants to find out the truth. Twitter, which has claimed to know the underlying truth, should clarify,' Delhi Police PRO Chinmoy Biswal had said on the notice to Twitter.

On Tuesday, Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wrote to Twitter's Lead for Legal, Policy and Trust and Safety Vijaya Gadde and its Deputy General Counsel and Vice President (Legal) Jim Baker, seeking stern action against 11 union ministers.

Surjewala alleged that the 'forged, fabricated material' and the claims made under the #CongressToolkitExposed by various ministers are identical to the material that has already been marked as 'manipulated media' by Twitter.

The NSUI has also registered a complaint against BJP's Raman Singh and Sambit Patra in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, where the Congress is in power. PTI AMP NIT SKC RT RT