Police search Twitter offices in Delhi, Gurugram amid Congress ‘toolkit’ row
A controversy has erupted over the site labelling a tweet of Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra as ‘manipulated media’.
The Delhi Police on Monday carried out searches at the offices of Twitter, amid a row over the microblogging site labelling Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra’s tweet on a “toolkit” allegedly prepared by the Congress as “manipulated media”, ANI reported.
The searches took place at Twitter’s offices in Lado Sarai in south Delhi and Gurugram.
Earlier on Monday, the police had served a notice to Twitter, asking it to clarify its labelling of Patra’s tweet, NDTV reported.
“It appears that Twitter has some information which is not known to us, on the basis of which they have classified it as such,” the police said, according to the news channel. “This information is relevant to the enquiry.”
The notice was sent to Twitter India Managing Director Manish Maheswari on May 22, according to The Indian Express. The police had asked Maheshwari to appear before it on the same day “for the purpose of investigation with all the relevant documents”.
“During the course of investigation, it has come to our knowledge that you [Twitter India] are acquainted with the facts of the matter and are in possession of information with regard to the same,” the notice stated, according to The Indian Express.
Maheshwari has told the police that he has “nothing to do” with the tweet and that he is “mere employee” at the social media platform’s India office.
Meanwhile as some reports said the police conducted searches at Twitter’s office, NDTV reported that they went there to hand over the notice in person. Delhi Police Public Relations Officer Chinmoy Biswal said the action was 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 have been very ambiguous,” he said.
Police also said they had decided to issue the notice after receiving complaints from Rohan Gupta, who heads the Congress’s social media department, and MV Rajeev Gowda, the chief of reserach department.
However, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that the police action was a fallout of the “fake toolkit” being exposed, which prompted the government to order the raids. “Coward BJP government cannot hide the truth of fake toolkit by conducting raids at the Delhi and Gurugram offices of Twitter,” Surjewala tweeted, adding a video message.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general Secretary Sitaram Yechury called the police action shameful. “Priority of these times is to focus on providing healthcare, medicines and vaccines,” he tweeted. “Union home minister instead unleashes Delhi Police on a social media platform to intimidate it for petty and partisan political purposes.”
Patra had alleged on May 18 that the Congress had created a “toolkit” or campaign material to tarnish the reputation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government in connection with the management of the coronavirus crisis. Several BJP leaders, including the party’s National President JP Nadda, amplified Patra’s tweet.
The Congress complained to Twitter that the document circulated by the BJP was fake. Fact-checking website AltNews also found that the document was created on a fake Congress letterhead.
The party had also asked the Delhi Police commissioner to file a complaint against Patra, Nadda and other BJP leaders on the charges of disseminating forged documents with the intent of creating “communal disharmony and civil unrest”.
On Sunday, the police in Raipur registered a First Information Report against Patra and former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh for allegedly forging the letterhead of Congress’ Research Department and printing “false and fabricated” content.