Social media website Twitter on Friday said it is proactively working with political parties to verify candidates, elected officials and other relevant officials ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the country. The announcement came after the microblogging site was recently accused of political bias and a lack of transparency.
The move comes a few days ahead of Twitter India officials meeting a Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology on February 11 to discuss matters concerning the use of social media. Officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will also participate in the meeting.
Twitter Global Vice President of Public Policy Colin Crowell said the platform wanted to maintain its integrity ahead of the elections. “We are committed to surfacing all sides of the conversation as we enter the election season in this extraordinarily diverse cultural, political and social climate,” he said. “For our part, we will endeavour to be even more transparent in how we develop and enforce our policies to dispel conspiracy theories and mistrust.”
In a press statement on Friday, the company said it does not take action based on political views of individuals or parties and that its product and policies are never developed or evolved on the basis of political ideology.
Crowell said Twitter neither reviews nor prioritises or enforces its policies on the basis of political ideology. “Every tweet and every account is treated impartially. We apply our policies fairly and judiciously for all,” he said in a press statement.
Twitter allows its users to report harmful content, hate speech, or accounts spreading such content, which can then be either temporarily suspended or brought down. Crowell said such decisions are taken by a global specialised team, which enforces the rules with impartiality. “Twitter India employees do not make enforcement decisions,” he said. “This is by design to ensure fairness and objectivity.”
Crowell said Twitter verifies accounts once they meet the company’s verification standards, and those up for verification are selected by political parties themselves. “Twitter verifies these accounts to empower healthy election conversations and to provide confidence that these public figures are whom they claim to be,” he said.
Crowell refuted allegations that Twitter used political ideology to rank content, adding that people could choose which accounts to follow and how to view their timelines.
Several members from the Youth for Social Media Democracy on February 3 had staged a protest outside Twitter India’s office in Delhi. They accused Twitter of favouring the Congress and Left-leaning parties, while suspending and blocking right-wing accounts. The protesters claimed Twitter would try to curb free speech of individuals who subscribe to right-wing ideology by suspending their handles, restricting their reach and removing trends from the trends list.
“However, it has been ignoring offensive, abusing and threatening tweets from Left-leaning ideologues and senior leaders of the Congress,” DNA had quoted Youth for Social Media Democracy as saying last week.
On January 10, Twitter had announced that it will provide an advertising dashboard that will show expenditures by political parties in India on the platform during the course of the election.
Last month, Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said his team is preparing for the Lok Sabha elections and they wanted to ensure that the “integrity of the conversation around the election” is maintained.