Their statement mendacious, conduct obfuscatory: Delhi Police's strongly-worded counter to Twitter

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New Delhi, May 27 (PTI) The Delhi Police Thursday said the statements by Twitter on the ongoing probe in the 'toolkit' case are 'mendacious', and designed to impede the lawful enquiry and seek 'dubious sympathy'.

The strongly-worded statement, which also terms Twitter's conduct 'obfuscatory, diversionary and tendentious', came after the social media firm Thursday called the recent 'visit' by a Delhi police team to its offices a form of 'intimidation'. Twitter also said it was concerned about its employees and the potential threat to freedom of expression.

'Prima facie, these statements (by Twitter) are not only mendacious but designed to impede a lawful inquiry by a private enterprise. Twitter Inc. has taken upon itself, in the garb of terms of service, to adjudicate the truth or otherwise of documents in public space,' Delhi Police PRO Chinmoy Biswal said in a statement.

It also said Twitter is purporting to be both investigating authority and adjudicating authority, while it has no legal sanction to be either.

The only legal entity to investigate is the police and to adjudicate is the courts, the statement said.

The Delhi Police also accused Twitter of indulging in 'fear mongering', through 'misguided and unfounded' efforts.

The police also rejected as 'completely incorrect' alleged efforts by Twitter to portray that the case has been filed at the behest of government of India, saying a preliminary inquiry in the 'toolkit' matter was registered at the instance of a complaint filed Congress party representatives.

The row over the purported 'Covid toolkit', attributed to the Congress by the BJP, escalated after the Delhi Police's Special Cell visited two Twitter India offices on Monday and served a notice, asking it to share information based on which it had classified a tweet on the matter by ruling party leader Sambit Patra as 'manipulated media'.

'Since Twitter Inc. claims to have material information basis which it not only 'investigated' but arrived at a 'conclusion', it must share that information with the police. There should not be any confusion about this logical course,' it said.

'The entire conduct by Twitter Inc, including its Indian entity, in the last few days has been obfuscatory, diversionary and tendentious,' it said, and went to suggest 'one simple thing' Twitter needs to do. 'Cooperate with the law enforcement and reveal to the legal authority the information it has.' Since the matter has been put in public domain, it is important to set the record straight on the 'tendentious statements' made, the police said.

Twitter had marked as 'manipulated media' tweets by Patra and several other BJP leaders on the alleged strategy document of opposition to target the government over its handling of the Covid pandemic. It prompted the police to visit Twitter offices late on Monday.

Opposition Congress has disputed the document, calling it fake.

The Delhi Police on Thursday said it is conducting a preliminary inquiry on the same.

'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,' the statement said.

But, Twitter India's subsidiary, TCIPL's Managing Director, chose to adopt a path of evasiveness instead of cooperation, it alleged.

'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,' the police stated.

'It is to be noted that TCIPL's stance that its Managing Director is a mere sales head runs contrary to his very own previous press interviews wherein he elaborately discussed Twitter’s plan to devise methods to identify abusive or manipulative content. The above interview makes it clear, that Twitter India's convoluted stance is similar to a deer caught in the headlights,' it said.

The Managing Director of 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, it said.

It further said that Twitter's statements are devised to seek 'dubious sympathy' when they not only refused to comply with the law of the land but also claim to be in possession of material evidence but refuse to share it with the legal authority.

In its first official statement after the Delhi police team visited its offices in Delhi and in Gurgaon, Twitter had said it will continue to be strictly guided by principles of transparency and protecting the freedom of expression. PTI AMP GJS GJS TIR TIR