Twitter India head was questioned in Congress ‘toolkit’ case: Report

A day after IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad called out Twitter for deliberate defiance of intermediary guidelines of the IT Act, media reports said Manish Maheshwari, managing director of Twitter in India, was questioned by a team of the Delhi Police Special Cell in Bengaluru on May 31.

The questioning involved the case of an alleged ‘Congress toolkit’, sources told NDTV on Thursday (June 17).

In a thread posted on Twitter, Prasad had said that there are “numerous queries as to whether Twitter is entitled to a safe harbour provision,” and added that the “the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the May 26.”

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He also said that the social media platform was “given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however it has deliberately chosen the path of non-compliance.”

On May 24 Delhi Police teams had gone to Twitter’s offices in Delhi and Gurugram to follow up on two notices over BJP leader Sambit Patra’s tweet on an alleged ‘Congress toolkit’ being marked as “manipulated media”.

The police said they went to Twitter India’s offices to hand a third notice after finding the replies of the managing director “ambiguous”. Twitter was told to explain why Sambit Patra’s tweet on May 18, which had screenshots of what he called a ‘Congress toolkit’ aimed at discrediting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government’s handling of COVID, were shown as “manipulated media”.

The tag emerged after the Congress wrote to Twitter saying the alleged “toolkit” was fake and that it had filed FIRs against BJP leaders who had tweeted the documents.

The ‘toolkit case has resurfaced at a time when Twitter is facing charges of inciting communal hatred over posts on an assault on a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad on June 5.

In the case filed on Tuesday (June 15), Twitter has been accused of retaining the “misleading” content linked to the incident in which a man had alleged that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant Jai Shri Ram by a group that attacked him. The UP police say there was nothing communal about the incident; the man was attacked by six people — Hindus and Muslims – who were angry with him for allegedly selling fake good luck charms.

The police FIR charges Twitter, several journalists and Congress leaders with inciting communal sentiments with posts sharing the man’s allegations.

Government sources say Twitter can no longer claim legal protection in India from prosecution over users’ posts as it has failed to comply with new IT rules requiring it to appoint India-based officers, including a Chief Compliance Officer.

The government has not formally clarified whether Twitter has lost its intermediary status, which grants social media companies indemnity from third-party content on their sites.

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