Police summon Twitter chief in India as legal troubles mount
NEW DELHI, June 22, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Just two weeks after being banned in Nigeria, Twitter faces new legal troubles in India that threaten the company’s growth in another key market.
Police last week summoned top Twitter officials in India, saying that the Big Tech company did not do enough to stop the spread of an allegedly misleading viral video. The Economic Times reported on Monday that a police report named Twitter, Inc. and Twitter India in reference to spreading the video, which authorities claimed was “provocation for rioting.”
The viral clip featured what appeared to be multiple Hindu men beating a Muslim man in the city of Ghaziabad. Social media posts indicated that the attack was religiously motivated, though police said that those claims were fake and purposefully divisive. Twitter restricted access to around 50 tweets in connection with the incident, The Economic Times said.
“Due to the malicious tweet published on the Twitter platform, a tense atmosphere was created in society and enmity increased between different groups in the country, threatening social harmony,” the notice to Twitter from Ghaziabad police read. “It was tweeted by Ghaziabad police from its official Twitter platform that the news in question is fake and it was within your jurisdiction to stop the spread of this false information, but you failed to do so.”
The police notice required Twitter India chief Manish Maheshwari and the company’s interim grievance manager to come before police no later than June 24. It warned that “further action will be taken accordingly” if Twitter does not comply.
Twitter’s legal troubles have intensified in India in recent weeks as the country has adopted new IT guidelines that Twitter has refused to accept, opening the social media giant to legal liability, according to Indian authorities.
The new rules, in effect as of May 26, require large social media platforms to hire India-based officers to address user complaints and facilitate compliance with the law. Under the guidelines, flagged content must be removed within 36 hours and material deemed sexually exploitative must be taken down within a day. Protections granted to social media companies to shield them from liability for user content “shall not be applicable” to non-compliant platforms.
All leading social media platforms in India except Twitter reportedly are in compliance with the guidelines. On June 5, the Indian government issued Twitter “one last notice to immediately comply,” again threatening the company’s exemption from liability.
Twitter has continued resisting the tech rules after the additional extension ended last week, India’s IT chief Ravi Prasad said on Wednesday. He blasted Twitter for “arbitrariness in fighting fake news” and “deliberate defiance,” adding that “it is beyond belief that Twitter Inc. has doggedly refused to create mechanisms that will enable the people of India to resolve their issues on the platform in a timely and transparent manner.”
Since Twitter’s deadline passed last Monday, media reports have said that the company definitively lost liability protections, though Prasad has not affirmed that directly, and some groups, like the Internet Freedom Foundation, have disputed it. Members of India’s parliament nevertheless summoned Twitter officials for questioning on Friday, stressing that the “law of the land is supreme” and must be followed in order to operate in the country, ThePrint reported.
India is one of Twitter’s fastest growing markets and is home to around 17 million Twitter users.
Two weeks ago, Nigeria, another major emerging market, blocked Twitter and ordered the prosecution of users after the Big Tech firm deleted a post by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that allegedly implied violence.
Former President Donald Trump, who has worked to repeal liability protections of Big Tech companies in the United States, has called on other countries to ban Twitter, as well.
“Congratulations to the country of Nigeria, who just banned Twitter because they banned their President,” Trump said. “More COUNTRIES should ban Twitter and Facebook for not allowing free and open speech — all voices should be heard.”
Twitter faced international criticism earlier this year after permanently suspending then-President Trump in January.