Trouble mounts for Twitter amid new FIRs over map row

Madhya Pradesh police registered an FIR against Twitter India managing director Manish Maheswari on Tuesday, the second complaint in as many days against the company’s officials over a distorted map of India, showing both Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh outside the country, displayed on its website.

The map was discovered on Monday, and taken down the same day.

On Monday evening, Bulandshahr Police registered an FIR against Maheshwari and Amrita Tripathi at Khurja Nagar police station on the basis of a complaint by an advocate and office-bearer of Bajrang Dal, Praveen Bhati, Bulandshahr senior superintendent of police S K Singh said.

Maheshwari’s lawyer has previously clarified, in a different case, that he in charge of sales. Tripathi tweeted on Tuesday that she was in charge of partnerships at Twitter India. The FIR was registered under section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code ((statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) and Section 74 of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008.

In his complaint, Bhati said that he came across the distorted map on Monday while browsing the company’s website, Suresh Kumar, CO of Khurja Nagar said. Bhati added that the map was meant to “hurt the sentiments” of Indians.

The Bhopal case was filed on a complaint by Sadbhavana Adhikar Manch, a Bhopal-based organisation, that alleged that Twitter was creating unrest and hurting the sentiments of people.

“On Monday, the management of Twitter India crossed all the limits and uploaded a wrong map which hurt our sentiments. They tried to divide the country,” said Manch chief Durgesh Keshwani, also a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Bhopal cyber cell superintendent of police Gurukaran Singh said, “We received a complaint in the morning. After investigation, we found that Twitter India tried to promote enmity and hatred among a class of people, so we have registered a case against them.” The case was filed under section 505 (2) of the IPC.

Earlier in the day, state home minister Narottam Mishra instructed the police to initiate legal action against Twitter. “Something or the other has been going on continuously against the country for a long time. Sometimes unrestrained words are spoken against Bharat Mata and sometimes a wrong map of the country is displayed on Twitter. These issues cannot be taken lightly,” Mishra said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Twitter declined to comment on the two developments.

Twitter has been in the eye of controversy over the past few months. On May 20, it labelled a tweet by Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra “manipulated media” prompting a Delhi Police investigation. The special cell of Delhi Police questioned Maheshwari in late May.

The company then missed a May 25 deadline to comply with the new guidelines for intermediaries and social media firms, and an official in the IT ministry previously told HT that the company would lose the protection it enjoyed as an intermediary under the country’s IT law as a result.

The Ghaziabad Police has been wanting to question Maheshwari over a video clip that went viral earlier this month. The police believe Twitter did not do enough to halt the circulation of the clip which they believe misrepresents the nature of an attack on an elderly Muslim man as a communal hate crime. The Karkataka high court gave the Twitter executive protection from arrest and told the Ghaziabad Police that they could question him virtually, a ruling that has since been challenged in the Supreme Court.

The map that caused the latest controversy was part of a larger image depicting the world map on the company’s website under the careers sections on the page titled Tweep Life. While it showed the disputed Aksai Chin area of Ladakh, illegally occupied by China, as part of that country, it depicted the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir as a separate country.

The misrepresentation caused an uproar online amid the ongoing impasse between the government and the micro-blogging firm.

This is the second time that Twitter has run into trouble over a map in the past year. In October last year, the Centre had served Twitter with a notice over the geotag for Leh showing it as a part of China.

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