UP police issue summons to Twitter in Ghaziabad assault case

The MD of the social media platform told to appear on June 24 in what the police claim a fake video being circulated to ‘promote communal discord’

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.

Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad police had issued summons to Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari on June 17 in the ongoing investigation into the alleged attack on an elderly Muslim man in Loni town of the district. The summons must be responded to by Thursday (June 24), said the police.

The summons involves a video that went viral and seemed to show a hate crime targeting the Muslim man and was amplified as such, but which the state’s police subsequently claimed was not a communal incident.

Also read: Twitter deletes 52 Centre-flagged posts critical of COVID management

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Twitter’s officials have denied that they had any role in the video clip, and their managing director in India has offered to join the probe over a video call. But the Ghaziabad police said on Monday (June 21) that it was not satisfied with the response and issued fresh summons.

“The clarifications given by the company are not justified. As per our knowledge, the Twitter MD is the representative of the social media organisation and he is bound to participate in the probe. The said official holds the power of taking action on tweets that impact the social fabric of the country. The tweets made on the platform fuelled animosity among sections of society and created an atmosphere of tension between communities. The organisation did not succeed in stopping such tweets despite Ghaziabad police stating on its Twitter handle that the news was fake. The representative has to appear before the police in the absence of which action can be initiated,” read the order issued by Loni Border Police officials.

Also read: FIR against Twitter, journalists for sharing Ghaziabad attack video

Media reports quoting the order said action under Section 41 A (notice of appearance before a police officer) of the CrPC can be taken in case the organization doesn’t comply with the order. The social media representative has been asked to report by 10.30 am on Thursday (June 24).

Reports said Twitter has blocked 50 tweets involving the incident. According to Twitter officials, access to tweets pertaining to the video showing the alleged assault of and his beard being cut off have been withheld.

In a Facebook live later, the victim had alleged that the accused had beaten him up, forcing him to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. However, police said the accused beat him up because he had sold them an amulet that “did not work”.

“As explained in our Country Withheld Policy, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in response to a valid legal demand or when the content has been found to violate local law(s). The withholdings are limited to the specific jurisdiction/country where the content is determined to be illegal. We notify the account holder directly so they’re aware that we’ve received a legal order pertaining to the account by sending a message to the email address associated with the account(s), if available,” said Twitter in a statement.

The police have cited IPC sections 153 (provocation for rioting), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505 (mischief), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) against a few journalists.

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