India Twitter chief named in second criminal case ‘over wrong map’ as pressure mounts on platform

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India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Twitter of not abiding by Indian rules  (AFP via Getty Images)
India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Twitter of not abiding by Indian rules (AFP via Getty Images)

The head of Twitter India has been hit with a second police complaint in as many weeks as the social media site remains locked in a dispute with the government.

The latest complaint has been filed by a leader of the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu group linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), for showing an incorrect map of India on Twitter’s website.

The map of India that appeared on a Twitter careers page showed portions of India including Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as being outside India. Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Twitter removed the map on Monday night after it prompted an outcry on social media that included demands for action against the micro blogging website.

Twitter India’s MD Manish Maheshwari and the website’s news partnerships head Amrita Tripathi were both named in the criminal complaint lodged on Tuesday in Uttar Pradesh state’s Bulandshahr area, reported The Indian Express.

“The world map does not show Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir as parts of India. This is not a coincidence. This act has hurt the sentiments of Indians, including me,” the Bajrang Dal group’s western Uttar Pradesh convenor Praveen Bhati said in the complaint, according to PTI news agency.

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It comes after another complaint against Mr Maheshwari, also in Uttar Pradesh state, in a separate case related to a viral video showing an elderly Muslim man being beaten up and having his beard cut off.

Mr Maheshwari was last week summoned by the police for failing to stop the spread of the viral video and several tweets which the police accused of "provoking communal sentiments" – in other words, inciting division between different religious groups. A court order later granted him temporary protection from arrest in the case.

The Indian government and the US microblogging site have been engaged in a months-long standoff over new IT regulations, which came into effect in May, that require social media companies to appoint a chief compliance officer, who is personally and criminally responsible for taking down posts deemed problematic by the authorities.

India’s Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Twitter of failing to comply with the IT rules while claiming that he was denied access to his own Twitter account for a brief time.

Senior government officials said on Monday that the government has concluded that Twitter India is no longer an “intermediary” platform and is therefore now criminally responsible for the content published on it.

The IT ministry will now present this conclusion before a court which will decide if Twitter can still enjoy “safe harbour status or not”, according to local media reports.

This is the third time Twitter came under fire in India for misrepresentation of the world map. Previously in October, Twitter’s automatic geo-tagging had featured the location of Jammu and Kashmir as being inside China during a live broadcast from Leh.

Twitter apologised over the matter after the government issued statements to complain.

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