Days after Twitter had reportedly lost its intermediary status in India, it is already coming in the crosshairs of government authorities for the content shared on its platform.
Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari has been summoned by the UP Police for questioning. The summons are related to an investigation of a video shared on Twitter’s platform with a false claim that police authorities say had the potential to stoke communal hatred. Maheshwari is required to present himself at the Loni Police station in Ghaziabad within a week.
Two days ago, the Uttar Pradesh Police had registered an FIR against several social media users, including fact-checkers and Congress leaders, for sharing a video of a Muslim man being beaten. The video had been shared with the claim that the man was being forced to chant Jai Shri Ram. But the UP Police alleges that the video was deliberately muted and shared with the fake claim — their investigations revealed that the man had not been asked Jai Shri Ram, and several of the men beating the victim were also Muslim.
The UP Police had then registered an FIR in the case, and, crucially, had also named Twitter in the complaint. This assumes significance, because it had been reported earlier this week that Twitter had lost its intermediary legal shield for not complying with Indian laws despite repeated reminders. The status of an intermediary allowed Twitter to be immune against prosecution for the content shared on its platform, much like how a phone company isn’t responsible for crimes that are plotted using its network. But Twitter hadn’t complied with Indians laws and not appointed a Chief Compliance Officer in the country, which meant that its legal protection had reportedly been stripped away.
There’s no clarity right now if Twitter has indeed lost its legal protection — legal opinion is divided over whether not appointing a Compliance Officer in India automatically strips away Twitter’s legal immunity as a third party intermediary. But this is amongst the rare times that Twitter has been named in an FIR in India, and more importantly, its MD has been ordered to present himself at a Police Station. Twitter is already on thin ice in India and abroad — public opinion has moved sharply against it in India for refusing to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, and it’s already been banned in Nigeria — and a police summons to its top India executive will come as further bad news for the social media platform.