Shiv Sena parliamentarian Sanjay Raut on Sunday alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seeking to censure the social media it had once used as its ‘toolkit’ to win two general elections and to spread misinformation. Writing in his weekly column ‘Rokthok’ in Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, Raut also said Centre’s stance against social media companies came after Congress effectively launched its own toolkit to expose the NDA government’s alleged mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The social media is an effective medium to run a campaign or tarnish someone’s name. The BJP has been foremost in misusing this medium. They used it for [running] a smear campaign against Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The same toolkit used by the BJP against their opponents has backfired and all attempts are made to ban the social media networks,” Raut wrote.
The Central government has asked the social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to put in place a new mechanism to regulate content and appoint officers liable for compliance under Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. It also asks them to adopt features such as traceability of messages and voluntary user verification for the purpose of preventing social media abuse. Google, Facebook and WhatsApp have shared the details as mandated under the new guidelines for intermediaries.
Raut alleged that any censure on social media would be akin to the 1975-emergency declared by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which curbed all personal liberty.
Raut further alleged that the government’s irritation with social media followed Congress party using a Toolkit to attack the government over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in social media. “Here the twitter was effectively used to show the dead bodies floating in the rivers, the vaccination fiasco and others. The BJP has realised that citizens are no longer responding to their misleading and false campaigns and hence wants to rein in the social media networks,” said Raut.
He added that this was aptly demonstrated as despite misleading campaigns against the farmers like linking them to Khalistani terrorists or foreign funding, the struggle was still going strong.
Raut finally said that twitter had once virtually become the voice of Modi and his government. However, after it took strong actions like permanently suspending actor Kangana Ranaut’s account, there has been resentment in the Modi government about social media networks and plans were afoot to ban them.