India: Terrorism Police Visit Twitter Offices After Site Flags Ruling Party Tweet

Twitter Censorship
John Nacion/AP

Police from the Indian national capital territory, Delhi, visited two Twitter India offices in the capital area on Monday allegedly to seek information about Twitter’s decision last week to label a tweet by India’s ruling party spokesman as “manipulated media.”

The Delhi police force falls under the jurisdiction of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs. The force sent members of its Special Cell team, which investigates terrorism and other serious crimes, to Twitter India offices in Delhi and Gurugram in the neighboring state of Haryana on Monday evening.

Twitter India on May 21 labeled a tweet by Sambit Patra, the spokesman of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as “manipulated media.” Patra claimed in the tweet that India’s main opposition party, the leftist Indian National Congress, was “using a so-called ‘toolkit’ to derail the Indian government’s efforts against the coronavirus pandemic,” according to Tech Crunch.

“Delhi police said it had received a complaint about the classification of Patra’s tweet, which it said it was investigating, and visited the offices to serve Twitter India’s head a notice of the inquiry [on May 24]. In a statement, the police said Twitter India’s managing director’s replies on the subject had been ‘very ambiguous,'” Tech Crunch reported on May 24.

“Delhi Police is enquiring into a complaint in which clarification is sought from the Twitter [sic] regarding the classification of a tweet by Shri Sambit Patra as ‘manipulative,’ [sic]” Delhi Police said in a statement on Monday.

“It appears that Twitter has some information which is not known to us on the basis of which they have classified it as such. This information is relevant to the enquiry,” the statement further read.

The Delhi Police force on Tuesday dismissed reports by international media outlets describing its visits to Twitter India offices on Monday as “raids.” A spokesman for the Delhi Police named Chinmoy Biswal told reporters on May 24 the visits were “part of a routine process.”

“This was necessitated as we wanted to ascertain who is the right person to serve a notice, as replies by Twitter India MD [managing director Manish Maheswari] have been very ambiguous,” he said.

Both the Delhi and Gurugram Twitter India offices were closed at the time of the Delhi Police visits on Monday evening, according to the Indian Express.

“At 7:00 pm, around ten policemen from the Special Cell reached Gurgaon’s Golf Course Road but couldn’t locate the Twitter office. A separate team reached the Mehrauli office in Delhi around 7:40 pm. They met guards and asked them for directions to the office, which was found locked. The team left the premises around 8:15 pm,” the newspaper reported.

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