New Delhi: Delhi Police Special Cell personnel travelled to Bengaluru on May 31 to question Twitter’s managing director for India over the “manipulated media” tag the website attached to tweets by BJP leaders on the “Congress toolkit”.
Indian Express has reported that the New Delhi Range of the Special Cell had asked MD Manish Maheshwari to join the investigation since scores of officers arrived to serve notices on the social media giant at its India offices in New Delhi and Gurgaon in late May.
When Maheshwari told police that he was in Bengaluru, two inspectors and a senior official travelled there to question him, a senior official reportedly told Express.
The interrogation reportedly lasted for two hours and questions concerned the hierarchy of the company, what information Twitter had on the “toolkit” and why they chose to give some tweets on it the “manipulated media” tag.
This investigation by the Delhi Police began after the Congress party filed a complaint on Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra tweeting on what several BJP and RSS leaders claimed was a “toolkit conspiracy” hatched by the party to “corner the Modi government and various BJP governments in the country”.
Patra’s tweet was flagged by Twitter as “manipulated media”. An investigation by fact-checking website AltNews showed that the media used in the tweet was forged in part.
While police has summoned officials from Twitter, Congress social media head Rohan Gupta and spokesperson M.V. Rajeev Gowda, who had filed the police complaint, Indian Express has reported that BJP’s Patra – whose tweet the complaint was about – has not yet been called in for questioning.
No FIR has been registered on the complaint by Delhi Police yet.
The Congress party has also filed a complaint on the “toolkit” matter in Chhattisgarh, where the government is led by the party. Police there have registered an FIR naming Patra and former chief minister Raman Singh for their tweets.
In late May, Twitter released a statement on what it said were “intimidation tactics” it was being subjected to in India. Twitter said it was concerned about its employees here – and the potential threat to freedom of expression – in the aftermath of the raid on its offices.
It was met with an angry response from India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT within a few hours.
In that same statement, Twitter had also expressed misgivings on the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, saying that it plans to push for changes to elements of the rules that inhibit free and open public.
Maheshwari’s questioning, which took place amidst the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, assumes significance considering the tussle in which Twitter India and the Central government are engaged over the social media company’s compliance with the IT Rules.
Twitter’s reported delays in complying with a new set of government regulations have raised questions over the social media giant’s special legal immunity status with regard to third-party content hosted on its platform.
After a video of an elderly man alleging assault in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad went viral on social media, Uttar Pradesh police booked Twitter, several Congress leaders and journalists in connection with tweets on the case.