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Twitter Sends Notices to Cartoonist Manjul, Other Prominent Users on Requests from Law Enforcement Agencies

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

Manjul, Zubair and retired IAS officer Surya Pratap Singh have shared screenshots of the notice sent by the microblogging platform on their Twitter handles over the last few days.

Unnamed law enforcement agencies have asked Twitter to take down certain tweets of popular cartoonist Manjul, fact-checking website Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair and others, over alleged violation of law. Manjul, Zubair and retired IAS officer Surya Pratap Singh have shared screenshots of the notice sent by the microblogging platform on their Twitter handles over the last few days. Sources said the Ministry of Electronics and IT was not involved in sending these legal requests to Twitter. It wasn’t clear which agencies have flagged these tweets by these users and for what violations.

Emails sent to Twitter did not elicit a response. Meanwhile, the screenshot shared by Manjul showed Twitter as saying: “In the interest of transparency, we are writing to inform you that Twitter has received a request from Indian law enforcement regarding your Twitter account @MANJULtoons, that claims the … content violates the law(s) of India."

It further stated that Twitter has not taken any action on the reported content at this time as a result of this request. Twitter, in its notice, said it is the company’s policy to notify users if it receives a legal request from an authorised entity (such as law enforcement or a government agency) to remove content from their account.

Twitter further informed the account holders that while the platform is unable to provide legal advice, “we want you to have an opportunity to evaluate the request and, if you wish, take appropriate action to protect your interests". “This may include seeking legal counsel and challenging the request in court, contacting relevant civil society organisations, voluntarily deleting the content (if applicable), or finding some other resolution," Twitter added. Mohammed Zubair and Surya Pratap Singh also shared screenshots with similarly worded notices from Twitter on their own accounts. These three users each have lakhs of followers on the platform.

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Twitter has had several faceoffs with the Indian government over the past months, including during the farmers’ protest and later when it tagged political posts of several leaders of the ruling party BJP as “manipulated media". Twitter has also been facing heat for delay in complying with the IT rules that mandate large digital platforms to undertake greater due diligence and make them more accountable and responsible for the content hosted by them.

Social media companies will have to take down flagged content within 36 hours, and remove within 24 hours content that is flagged for issues such as nudity and pornography under the new rules. Under the rules, significant social media intermediaries — those with over 50 lakh users — are required to appoint a grievance officer, a nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. These personnel have to be residents in India. Earlier this week, Twitter assured the Indian government that it is in advanced stages of finalising the appointment of chief compliance officer as required under the new IT rules, and that it will submit additional details within a week.

Twitter has also stated that India will be one of the first countries in which it pilots a new approach of building an in-market team to “locally tailor" its global product to the needs of the region. As part of its strategy, the company is scouting for a ‘Staff Designer’, who will help the platform establish a bespoke product strategy for Twitter in India and execute against it with support from a dedicated local team. Twitter has an estimated 1.75 crore users in India, as per data cited by the government recently.

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first published:June 12, 2021, 19:22 IST