Delhi Police says we only want info from Twitter

Delhi Police today said it only wanted to ask Twitter for any information the company had about the so-called manipulation of a ‘toolkit’ that was allegedly prepared by the main opposition party, Indian National Congress.

It also accused Twitter of refusing to hand over “material evidence” about manipulation of the photographs contained in some BJP leaders’ tweets.

The controversy broke out after Twitter applied the tag ‘Manipulated Media’ when some photographs were shared by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

These leaders had claimed that the excerpted media was from a ‘toolkit’ put together by the Indian National Congress to unethically corner the government on its handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

They objected to the tag of ‘manipulated media’ applied on the tweets, vouching for the genuineness of the photographs. The Congress Party, on the other hand, claimed that the photographs had been subjected to editing, and Twitter chose to attach a warning to the pictures.

Following this, Delhi Police — which works under the Union Government — paid a visit to the offices of Twitter India yesterday.

In response, Twitter today issued a statement saying it was concerned by “recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve”, ostensibly referring to the visit by Delhi Police officers to Twitter India’s office and some new rules being brought in to control social media users.

“We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules,” it added.

In its response, Delhi Police said it was not trying to intimidate the US-based company’s Indian employees, but merely wanted to know what proof Twitter had to say that the pictures of the alleged Congress’ toolkit were manipulated.

“Delhi Police is conducting a preliminary inquiry on the same and the matter is under investigation. Twitter Inc., while placing the cart before the horse, went ahead and declared that the toolkit was ‘Manipulated Media’. This clearly demonstrates that Twitter Inc. was acquainted with the facts of the case and it had material information which was germane to the inquiry by a duly recognized law enforcement agency. Therefore, Twitter was asked, by way of multiple communications, to join the inquiry to provide the information it possesses,” Delhi Police said today in a statement.

It also went one step further and accused Twitter’s managing director for India, Manish Maheshwari of trying to be evasive and non-cooperative when the police sought proof that the tweet contained manipulated photographs.

“Initially, TCIPL’s Managing Director stated in his response that he was merely a sales head, had no role whatsoever in any operations relating to content and thereby refused to join the inquiry,” Delhi Police said.

It then went on to point out that the same person had, in media interviews, explained how Twitter blocks disinformation via various strategies. Delhi Police there have been “previous press interviews wherein he elaborately discussed Twitter’s plan to devise methods to identify abusive/ manipulative content.”

Therefore, Maheshwari’s statement that he was not aware of the details of the case was not credible, it added.

Delhi Police also said Twitter was needlessly sensationalizing the issue, and that they just wanted the ‘proof’ of manipulation that Twitter had.

“TCIPL was merely served a notice, not as an accused but to participate in the inquiry as Twitter claims to have been acquainted with certain facts. Twitter’s Inc’s latest statements are devised to seek dubious sympathy,” it said.