JURIST EXCLUSIVE – One of our India staff brings JURIST up to date on an unusual housecall by Indian police earlier this week:
This Monday, the Delhi Police’s Special Cell showed up at Twitter India’s offices located in Delhi and Gurgaon to serve them a notice. As highlighted by lawyers, the process of serving a notice could have been achieved “through email and post or even with multiple police personnel” but instead the Special Cell thought it wise to pay them a visit themselves.
But how is it that they came to visit them in the first place? The genesis of this Monday night action was because Twitter had labelled a tweet by BJP’s chief spokesperson Sambit Patra as “manipulated media”. This tweet by Patra on May 18 had flagged a “toolkit” created by BJP’s rival political party Indian National Congress, which allegedly targeted the Modi government over its Covid mismanagement. The rival party thereafter complained to Twitter that the “toolkit” being circulated was fake as a result of which Twitter took action under its rules and policies.
However, such flagging thereafter evoked response from the Central Government who asked Twitter to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tag by stating that “such tagging by Twitter appears prejudged, prejudiced and a deliberate attempt to colour the investigation by local law enforcement agency”. This was followed by the prompt delivery of notice to Twitter on Monday.
Twitter has responded sternly to this raid/service of notice. India has recently seen the coming into force of new social media rules. Citing that, Twitter has come forward to state that it is concerned about the “potential threat” to freedom of expression as well as the intimidation tactics employed by the government. This comes at a time when the new rules have been challenged by intermediaries like Whatsapp in different High Courts of the country. However, the government has remained firm in its conviction and has retorted by asking Twitter to comply with the law of the land.