Well Within Parl Panel’s Mandate to Seek Clarification from IT Ministry on ‘Manipulated Media’ Issue: Tharoor

Amid the ongoing ‘toolkit’ row, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday said the parliamentary panel on information and technology had written to the IT ministry over its communication with Twitter on the ‘manipulated media’ issue and has received a detailed reply on it. Hitting back at BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, who had accused him of using his position as chairman of the panel to tarnish the image of the Centre, Tharoor asserted that it was well within the mandate of the committee to seek a clarification on Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MEITY) “contacts” with Twitter on the ‘manipulated media’ issue.

In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, the BJP MP, who is a member of the panel, had referred to some recent remarks made by Tharoor on the Union government on the “toolkit issue”, and alleged that the Congress leader was “misusing” his official position to “tarnish” the image of the Union government as well as Parliament by raising issues which are outside the purview of the parliamentary panel. Taking to Twitter, Tharoor said that with reference to allegations circulated publicly recently by a member of the Parliamentary Committee on IT relating to the ‘manipulated media’ issue, it is clarified that given the committee’s inability to meet in current circumstances, it communicates with ministries in writing as required.

On the subject of the IT ministry’s “contacts with Twitter” on ‘Manipulated Media’, the Committee Secretariat wrote to MEITY by email and received a detailed and comprehensive reply dated May 26, which is being circulated to all members for their information, Tharoor said in a series of tweets. The committee is already examining the subject ‘safeguarding citizens’ rights & prevention of misuse of social/online media platforms” which relates to this issue, he said.

It is therefore well within the committee’s mandate to seek a clarification on this matter from the ministry concerned, Tharoor asserted. In a jibe at Dubey, he said, “As a matter of established practice and good form, members with issues to raise relating to the work of a parliamentary committee are advised to communicate directly with the Chairman and/or the Committee Secretariat, rather than ventilating their concerns in the media without discussion.” Hours after a BJP spokesperson’s tweets on an alleged ‘toolkit’ on the Centre’s COVID-19 response were labelled as ‘manipulated media’, the government on Friday had asked Twitter to remove the tag, saying the social media platform cannot pass judgment on a matter under investigation. MEITY wrote “a strong communication” to Twitter registering objection to the use of ‘manipulated media’ tag on certain tweets, according to sources.

The BJP had accused the Congress of creating a ‘toolkit’ that seeks to tarnish the image of the country and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the handling of the Covid pandemic. However, the Congress denied the allegation and claimed that the BJP is propagating a fake ‘toolkit’ to defame it. Last week, Twitter labelled as “manipulated media” a tweet by Sambit 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”.

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