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New Delhi: Pakistan expressed “serious concern” on Monday, August 29, over what it called a “brazen abuse of state power and strong-arm tactics to manipulate and force-regulate the Internet sphere” by India in the wake of former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko alleging that the Indian government had forced the social media firm to hire a “government agent”, Pakistani daily Dawn reported.
The Pakistan Foreign Office said India had attempted to “infiltrate the security system” of Twitter, indicating the “alarming pace of shrinking space for pluralistic voices and curbing of fundamental freedoms in India”.
The reaction from the Pakistan side comes against the backdrop of Zatko’s whistle-blower complaint filed against his former employer, Twitter, with the US Securities and Exchange Commission over its alleged security lapses. He had presented the social media giant as “a chaotic company” that was unable to properly protect its 238 million daily users. He had made specific allegations against India in one of the sections of his complaint titled ‘Penetration by Foreign Intelligence & Threats to Democracy’. The complaint in question was 84 pages long and was published by the Washington Post.
“The Indian government forced Twitter to hire a specific individual(s) who were government agents, who (because of Twitter’s basic architectural flaws) would have access to vast amounts of Twitter sensitive data,” Zatko in his complaint alleged.
“By knowingly permitting an Indian government agent direct unsupervised access to the company’s systems and user data, Twitter executives violated the company’s commitments to its users,” Zatko added.
In a statement issued on Monday, August 29, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad, according to the Dawn report, said India’s actions were not only “against international standards, obligations, norms, and framework of the flow of information” but also reflected its “curbing of fundamental freedoms in India”.
Ahmad, in his statement, also noted that the issue of legal depositions made in the US by Zatko was discussed during Twitter’s briefing to India’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology.
Top Twitter executives, including senior director (public policy) Samiran Gupta and director (public policy) Shagufta Kamran, had deposed before the parliamentary panel chaired by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Friday, August 26. The Twitter executives, however, had not only dismissed Zatko’s allegations but also denied such allegations being made.
The Pakistani spokesperson also raised the issue of the Indian government blocking several official Twitter handles of Pakistan’s diplomatic missions as well as its national broadcaster, Radio Pakistan, last month.
“Regrettably, a large number of Twitter handles particularly those belonging to Kashmiri political leaders and media persons, continue to remain blocked due to India’s frivolous legal objections,” he said, according to the Dawn report.
The Pakistani official called upon India to reverse the blockade of Pakistani Twitter accounts immediately, in line with the established international norms and standards of freedom of expression as mandated by the United Nations. It also urged the Indian government to refrain from “employing subterfuges to control the global Internet domain”.