Twitter Faces More Heat as New Police Case Registered Over Child Pornography Material on Platform in India

In more trouble for Twitter, two FIRs were lodged in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh against senior officials of its India office over the social media platform putting up a distorted map of the country.

The Delhi Police also said it has registered a case against Twitter on a complaint by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for allegedly allowing access to child sexual abuse material on the social media platform.

It is the latest in the run-ins between Twitter and Indian authorities. While the social media giant is mired in a row with the central government over not following the new IT rules, Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari was recently summoned by Ghaziabad police in UP in a probe into an objectionable video posted in connection with an assault on an elderly Muslim man.

The Uttar Pradesh police has now moved the Supreme Court against an order of the Karnataka High Court restraining it from taking coercive action against Maheshwari in the case.

The first FIR in the wrong map issue was lodged at the Khurja Nagar police station in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh on Monday evening against Maheshwari and News Partnerships Head Amrita Tripathi under Indian Penal Code section 505 (2) based on a complaint by an office-bearer of right-wing outfit Bajrang Dal.

Section 505 (2) relates to “statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes”.

Charges under Information Technology Act section 74 (publication for fraudulent purpose) have also been invoked in the case, according to the FIR.

Twitter had on Monday removed the wrong map that showed the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir outside India, following an uproar.

On Tuesday, Madhya Pradesh police said that a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against Maheshwari under section 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code over the distorted map.

The FIR was filed on a complaint by Durgesh Keswani, a state BJP spokesperson, Gurkaran Singh, Superintendent of Police (SP), MP Cyber Crime Cell told PTI.

Keswani alleged that Twitter, “through a conspiracy”, distorted the country’s map. “This act has hurt our sentiments. So, I have filed a complaint with the Cyber Crime Cell,” he said.

Earlier in the day, state home minister Narottam Mishra said that he had instructed Director General of Police Vivek Johari to initiate legal action against the social media giant for putting up the distorted map.

In Delhi, the police have registered an FIR against Twitter under relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the IT Act for allegedly allowing access to child pornography on the microblogging platform on a complaint by the NCPCR.

This comes days after the NCPCR, the country’s apex child rights body, asked Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cyber Cell) Anyesh Roy to explain why no action had been taken against Twitter. In its letter, the NCPCR had asked the Delhi Police to book Twitter in the wake of the findings of its recent inquiry in which it had found that child sexual abuse material (CSAM) was easily available on the platform.

“Acting on a complaint received from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights regarding the availability of child sexual abuse and child pornographic material on Twitter in the form of various accounts and links, an FIR under relevant sections of IPC, IT Act and POCSO Act has been registered by the Cyber Crime Unit, and investigation has been taken up,” Delhi Police Public Relations Officer Chinmoy Biswal said.

The complaint was against Twitter Inc and Twitter Communication India Private Ltd., the police said. Notably, the microblogging platform has lost its legal shield as an intermediary in India, becoming liable for users posting any unlawful content.

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh police has moved the Supreme Court against an order of the Karnataka High Court restraining it from taking coercive action against Maheshwari in the Ghaziabad case.

The Twitter India Managing Director, who lives in Bengaluru, was issued a notice by the Ghaziabad Police on June 21 and asked to report at its Loni Border police station at 10.30 AM on June 24 to get his statement recorded in the case.

He moved the high court, which on June 24 gave him relief from any coercive action and said that the investigators can examine him through virtual mode.

The UP government has filed a special leave petition challenging the high court order saying the right to investigate has been curtailed, sources said.

The Karnataka high court on Tuesday adjourned the matter till July 5 after the Uttar Pradesh police urged it to defer the hearing.

In the video clip, which surfaced on social media on June 14, the elderly Muslim man, Abdul Shamad Saifi, alleged he was thrashed by some young men and asked to chant “Jai Shri Ram.”

The Ghaziabad Police had on June 15 lodged an FIR against Twitter Inc, Twitter Communications India, news website The Wire, journalists Mohammad Zubair and Rana Ayyub, Congress’ Salman Nizami, Masqoor Usmani, Dr Sama Mohammad and writer Saba Naqvi for sharing the clip.

The police, which had ruled out any communal angle in the incident, claimed the video was shared to cause social unrest.

The government has confronted the US digital giant over deliberate defiance and failure to comply with the country’s new IT rules, despite repeated reminders.

In October last year, Twitter came under heavy criticism after its geotagging feature displayed “Jammu & Kashmir, People’s Republic of China” in a live broadcast from Leh’s Hall of Fame, a war memorial for fallen soldiers in the Union Territory of Ladakh.

India had issued a stern warning to Twitter, making it clear that any disrespect of the country’s sovereignty and integrity is totally unacceptable.

In November, Twitter showed Leh as part of Jammu and Kashmir instead of the Union Territory of Ladakh, following which the Centre issued a notice to the US-based company for disrespecting the territorial integrity of India by showing an incorrect map.

On Friday, Twitter again drew flak after it briefly blocked IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad from accessing his account over alleged violation of US copyright law — a move that was immediately slammed by the minister as being arbitrary and in gross violation of IT rules.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has now asked Twitter to reply within two days on locking of accounts of Prasad and Tharoor.

Several members of the panel had categorically told Twitter officials who earlier appeared before it that the rule of the land is supreme not the social media platform’s policies.

Twitter and the government have been on a collision course on multiple other issues in the past months, including during the farmers’ protest against the agri laws and later when the microblogging platform tagged political posts of several leaders of the ruling party BJP as “manipulated media.”

The Information and Technology ministry has called out Twitter on a number of occasions for attempting to dictate terms to the world’s largest democracy.

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