Showing Leh as part of China a ‘criminal offence’, panel tells Twitter

Joint Committee of Parliament on Data Protection Bill, 2019, says company's explanations in its defence are inadequate, tells its executives that this is a 'matter of India's sovereignty and integrity'

Twitter
After the controversy erupted, India had written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey saying any attempt to “disrespect" India’s sovereignty and integrity is 'unacceptable' and 'unlawful'. Photo: PTI

A joint committee of members of Parliament has termed microblogging site Twitter showing Leh as part of China a “criminal offence” and said that the explanation it gave in its defence was “inadequate”.

There was a huge uproar in India when Twitter showed the geolocation of Leh as being in China. Leh is the headquarters of the Union Territory of Ladakh, which is near the border with China.

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Executives from Twitter were questioned by the Joint Committee of Parliament on Data Protection Bill, 2019, on Ladakh being shown as part of China on the social media site. The chairman of the committee Meenakshi Lekhi said this amounted to a criminal offence that is punishable by seven years’ imprisonment. 

Twitter India’s public policy senior manager Shagufta Kamran; legal counsel Ayushi Kapoor; Pallavi Walia, who handles policy communications; and Manvinder Bali, who takes care of corporate security appeared before the committee.

“The committee was unanimous in its opinion that Twitter’s explanation on showing Ladakh as part of China was inadequate,” Lekhi said, reported PTI.

When Twitter’s executives said the company respects India’s sensitivities, Lekhi told them it is not a question of just sensitivities but “a matter of India’s sovereignty and integrity”.

“The recent geo-tagging issue was swiftly resolved by our teams. We are committed to openness, transparency around our work and will remain in regular touch with the government to share timely updates,” a Twitter spokesperson said after the committee’s hearing. 

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After the geolocation controversy surfaced, India had written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey saying any attempt to “disrespect” India’s sovereignty and integrity, which is also reflected by the maps, is “unacceptable” and “unlawful”.

Stating that Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir are “integral and inalienable parts of India”, the government said “misrepresentation” of India’s map is not acceptable and that the company should “respect sensitivities of Indian citizens”.

The incident has raised questions about Twitter’s “neutrality and fairness as an intermediary”, IT Secretary Ajay Sawhney said in the letter, reported PTI.

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