Twitter Concerned For Staff Safety, Alleges ‘Intimidation Tactics’ By Indian Police

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Twitter concerned for the safety of its staff in India, after law enforcement visits local offices, which it says is police ‘intimidation tactics’

Tensions between Twitter and the Indian government continue to rise, after the platform made an extraordinary intervention this week.

On Monday Indian police visited Twitter’s office in New Delhi, over its labelling of a tweet by a governing party spokesman as “manipulated media.”

But Twitter has hit back and labelled the visit as a police ‘intimidation tactic’ and reportedly said that it is now concerned for the safety of its staff in the country.

Indian tensions

Tensions have been growing between Twitter and the Indian government over the past few months.

In February Twitter refused an official request to remove over a thousand accounts from its platform.

The Indian government Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested that San Francisco-based Twitter remove more than 1,100 accounts and posts, which it alleged were spreading misinformation about widespread protests by farmers against new agricultural laws.

However, Twitter refused, saying a government order to remove some accounts was not consistent with Indian law.

But in late April Twitter did remove a number of tweets critical of the Indian government’s response to a new wave of Coronavirus infections that engulfed the country, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

Critics are concerned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is trying to silence criticism, including of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Twitter is widely used by Prime Minister Modi, his cabinet ministers and other leaders to communicate with the public.

Police ‘visit’

On Monday, Indian police visited Twitter’s office in New Delhi to serve a notice directing it to answer questions about its tagging of a tweet by government spokesman as manipulated.

The tweet had been posted on 18 May by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, and it reportedly included a picture of a document that he said was created by the country’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress.

The picture reportedly listed tips on how to discredit Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Modi government’s began an investigation when Twitter labelled this tweet as manipulated media.

Intimidation tactics

But Twitter has hit back on Thursday and reportedly said it has “concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police”.

Twitter also said Thursday it was worried about the safety of its staff in India, CNBC reported.

“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,” Twitter reportedly said.

On Wednesday, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in Delhi High Court against the Indian Government, arguing that new government rules that require it to make messages “traceable” to external parties are unconstitutional and undermine the fundamental right to privacy.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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