Twitter ‘concerned’ about India staff safety after police visit

Twitter Inc says it is worried about the safety of its staff in India, days after police visited its offices as part of a probe related to the social media firm’s tagging of some governing party posts as manipulated.

Indian police on Monday visited the Twitter offices to serve a notice to the micro-blogging firm’s country head for a probe into its tagging of a tweet by a ruling party spokesman as “manipulated media”.

Without directly referring to the Delhi police action, Twitter on Thursday said: “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.”

Members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently shared portions of a document on Twitter they said was created by the main opposition Congress party and highlighted government failures in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress complained to Twitter, saying the document was fake, after which Twitter marked some of the posts as “manipulated media”.

Delhi Police declined to comment, Reuters news agency said.

Twitter has been battling with the Indian government since February after the technology ministry asked it to block content alleging Modi’s administration was trying to silence criticism related to the farmer protests in the country.

Following that showdown, India announced new IT rules that aim to make social media firms more accountable to legal requests for swift removal of posts.

Last month, the Indian government asked Twitter to take down dozens of tweets, including some by legislators belonging to opposition parties, that were critical of India’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, as cases of COVID-19 again hit a world record.

On Thursday, Twitter asked the technology ministry to give it three more months to comply with the new content regulation rules, which include the appointment of an Indian grievance officer to deal with complaints.

Twitter said it was very concerned the rules made the compliance officer criminally liable for content on the platform, adding the move represented a dangerous overreach.

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