Case booked against Twitter India head over Indian map without J&K, Ladakh

Last year, Twitter found itself in a similar controversy when its location tagging system showed the Leh region as part of China. 

The Uttar Pradesh Police named Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari in a first information report (FIR) over a map on Twitter’s website showing Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as a separate country.

The map in question was displayed in the “Tweep Life” section of Twitter’s careers page. Although it appears that the incorrect map has been on Twitter’s website since May (MediaNama verified this by checking the archived version of the site), the issue was thrown into the spotlight only yesterday. The map was removed within hours after the company faced public backlash and the government said it was looking into the matter.

The FIR was filed based on a complaint made by Hindutva group Bajrang Dal leader Praveen Bhati in UP’s Bulandshahr district and it also names Twitter India’s head of news partnerships, Amrita Tripathi. Both Maheshwari and Tripathi were booked under Section 505 (2) of the Indian Penal Code (creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) and Section 74 of IT (Amendment) Act 2008, Scroll reported. Maheshwari has already been sent notices by the UP police in a separate case on Twitter’s role in the Ghaziabad assault case. However, the Karnataka High Court, last week, passed an interim order restraining the UP Police from initiating any coercive action against him.

Not the first map row for Twitter

Last October, Twitter found itself in the cross-hairs of the Indian government when geotags for Leh on the platform showed the region as a part of China. The government wrote a strongly worded letter “expressing “strong disapproval” over the issue and warned the company for “disrespect[ing] the country’s sovereignty”. The letter also raised questions about Twitter’s neutrality and fairness as an intermediary.

Although the issue was quickly resolved, the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Data Protection Bill questioned Twitter about it a few days later. “Displaying Indian map improperly and incorrectly is an offence of treason and attracts imprisonment of seven years,” BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi said in the hearing. Twitter’s representatives said the issue was because of a technical glitch and it was a “mistake” and apologized for the issue. However, the committee was not satisfied with the response and further sought an affidavit from Twitter India’s US-based parent.

Twitter facing a battle on multiple fronts

IT Minister’s account locked: Last Friday, Twitter locked Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s personal account over violation of copyright laws. The account was unlocked within an hour, but RS Prasad called out Twitter for taking actions that were in violation of the IT Rules. “Twitter’s actions indicate that they are not the harbinger of free speech that they claim to be but are only interested in running their own agenda, with the threat that if you do not tow the line they draw, they will arbitrarily remove you from their platform,” Prasad added.

Ghaziabad case: On June 16, the Uttar Pradesh police lodged an FIR against Twitter and others in connection with tweets on an elderly man who was allegedly assaulted in Ghaziabad. Twitter was named as an accused in the case as it had allegedly failed to delete ‘provocative’ tweets despite clarification regarding the matter by Ghaziabad Police. Later, the Ghaziabad Police sent a legal notice to the Managing Director of Twitter India in connection with the case, asking the official to himself in the Loni Border station within a week. However, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday passed an interim order restraining the Uttar Pradesh Police from initiating any coercive action against Twitter Communications India Private Ltd’s Manish Maheshwari.

Compliance with IT Rules: Twitter is yet to fully comply with IT Rules 2021 that went into effect on May 25. The platform had appointed a resident grievance officer, nodal contact person, and chief compliance officer on an interim basis, but the government pointed out that the grievance officer and nodal contact person nominated by the company were not employees of the platform and the office address submitted by the company was that of a law firm. To make matters worse, Dharmendra Chatur, Twitter’s interim grievance officer quit his position on June 28, forcing the company to reappoint its US-based employee as the grievance officer, which is against the rules. As of now, Twitter remains non-compliant with the IT Rules and its career page has openings for all three roles.

Standing Committee notice: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology asked Twitter to appear before them on June 18 on the subject of safeguarding citizen rights and misuse of social media/news platforms. Twitter reportedly accepted before the committee that it gives priority to its own laid down policies over Indian law in cases of conflict, which led the panel to conclude that the social media company was in violation of the IT Act, 2000. According to a report by Economic Times, the panel questioned Twitter India representatives on June 18 on various issues such as the appointment of a full-time compliance officer, its status of being an intermediary, and so on for over 90 minutes. At the end of the meeting, the panel reportedly gave Twitter representatives queries to which the social media company has to provide answers soon.

Manipulated media case: Delhi police served a notice and visited two offices of Twitter in May in connection with an alleged Indian National Congress-created toolkit. Twitter had labelled tweets of BJP politicians including spokesperson Sambit Patra and others on the alleged toolkit prepared by Congress as “manipulated media.” The tweets alleged that Congress had created this toolkit to defame the Prime Minister and “undermine” the government’s Covid-19 vaccination policy. Soon after, Delhi Police sent a notice to Twitter seeking clarification on the usage of the term “manipulated media” since the matter was under investigation.

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