Twitter India Head Questioned Over "Congress Toolkit" Case: Sources

Congress Toolkit: Manish Maheshwari, Managing Director of Twitter in India, was questioned by a team of the Delhi Police Special Cell in Bengaluru on May 31.

Details of the questioning are emerging at a time Twitter faces charges including inciting communal hate.

New Delhi:

Twitter India's chief was questioned by the Delhi Police last month in the case involving an alleged "Congress toolkit", sources said today. Manish Maheshwari, Managing Director of Twitter in India, was questioned by a team of the Delhi Police Special Cell in Bengaluru on May 31.

This was a week after Delhi Police teams went to Twitter's offices in Delhi and Gurgaon 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 had been asked to explain why BJP spokesperson 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 labelled "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.

Seven days later after the office visit, a police team travelled to Bengaluru to question Mr Maheshwari.

Details of the questioning are emerging at a time Twitter faces charges including inciting communal hate over posts on an assault on a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad on June 5.

In the case filed on Tuesday night, Twitter has been accused of not removing "misleading" content linked to the incident. The charges it faces include "intent to a riot, promoting enmity and criminal conspiracy".

The man, Sufi Abdul Samad, had alleged that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant "Vande Matram" and "Jai Shri Ram" by a group that assaulted 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 for 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.

Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Twitter was given "multiple opportunities to comply" but it chose the path of "deliberate defiance".

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

Digital advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation says it is up to courts, not the government, to decide whether Twitter stops being an intermediary for alleged non-compliance. The intermediary status of social media platforms is a 'technical' qualification granted by the IT Act of 2000, it says, and Twitter will still be immune from liability if it complies with legal requests to take down user posts.

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