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UP Police Issues Summons to Twitter MD Over Ghaziabad Attack Against Muslim Man

The police summons to the Twitter India chief is only the latest in the now long-drawn open conflict between Twitter and the Government of India.

New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh Police has summoned Twitter India’s managing director, Manish Maheshwari, for questioning within seven days in connection with the viral video of an attack against an elderly Muslim man recently in Loni, Ghaziabad.

The charge against Maheshwari as per the police is that Twitter did not prevent the video in question from going viral, and thereby affected peace and contributed to enmity between religious groups.

The notice was served on Maheshwari late on Thursday evening under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which enables the investigating officer to seek the appearance of any person who is acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case. Maheshwari has to appear before the police within seven days to record his statement, Akhilesh Kumar Mishra, the investigating officer in the case, said.

The summons issued to Twitter official comes exactly two days after the Uttar Pradesh Police lodged an FIR (first information report) against The Wire; journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi and Mohammed Zubair; and Congress leaders for tweeting the video of the attack on the Muslim elderly man, which had already gone viral.

Also read: Safe Harbour and the Quickly Rising Stakes in Twitter v Government of India

On Tuesday, June 15, The Wire had reported that the elderly Muslim man was attacked in Loni, in Ghaziabad district, on June 5 while on his way to offer prayers at a mosque.

Abdul Samad, 72 years old, had alleged in a viral video that the attackers had also cut off his beard, and beat him up while forcing him to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. Police have, however, claimed that the incident has no communal angle – a claim which the victim’s family has disputed in an interview to The Wire. 

The police summons to the Twitter chief is only the latest in the now long-drawn open conflict between Twitter and the Government of India. Trouble began to brew for Twitter India when the Centre framed new digital media guidelines in February, ordering social media platforms, digital news publishers, OTT platforms to comply with the new rules.

These include regulating content, appointment of nodal officers for compliance and grievance redressal, and adopting features such as traceability of messages and voluntary user verification. The latest measures by the Centre to “regulate” social media, many believe, in a way go against the statutes concerning freedom of speech and expression.

In fact, in February, at the height of the farmers’ protests, Twitter had withheld as many as 250 accounts tweeting updates and information relating to farmers’ agitation – also based on a government request.

Recently, in the last week of May, Twitter received another notice after it had tagged BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra’s tweet in connection with an alleged COVID-19 “toolkit” by the Congress party as “manipulated media”. Twitter offices in Delhi and Gurgaon have also been raided in connection with this.

Amidst the vitiated environment, Twitter has raised concerns regarding the safety of its employees in the country and police intimidation.

Meanwhile, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday, June 16, blamed Twitter for “deliberately” choosing not to comply with the guidelines even as officials in his ministry said that this could have the social media company lose the protection it enjoys as an intermediary. The guidelines came into effect on May 26.