Twitter has informed popular political cartoonist Manjul that it has received a legal request from Indian law enforcement to take action against his social media profile. The cartoonist on Friday shared an email he received from the company.
“We have not taken any action on the reported content [@Manjultoons] at this time as a result of this request,” Twitter said.
The government has sought action against Manjul’s profile instead of a specific tweet, claiming it “violates the law(s) of India”.
The social media giant suggested that the cartoonist can seek legal counsel and challenge the government’s request in court, contact civil society organisations for finding a resolution or voluntarily delete the content.
“Jai ho Modi ji ki sarkaar ki [Hail the Modi government],” Manjul wrote on Twitter, while sharing the email. He also said it would have been good if the government mentioned which tweet of his had caused a problem.
The cartoonist has illustrated the grim reality of the devastating second wave of the pandemic in India and slow pace of the vaccination drive.
In April, 52 tweets were taken down from the social media platform following orders from the government. The Centre claimed they were spreading fake news, but the majority of these tweets were critical of its handling of the health crisis as the second wave in India led to states grappling with shortages of hospital beds, oxygen, medicines and vaccines.
Posts by Congress leaders Pawan Khera, Revanth Reddy, West Bengal minister Moloy Ghatak, actor Vineet Kumar Singh, filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das were among those blocked.
This development also comes at a time when tension has been brewing between Twitter and the Modi government due to an alleged Congress document or “tookit” and new information technology rules.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had tweeted on May 18, alleging 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. Twitter later classified Patra’s post as “manipulated media”. But days later, the Delhi Police carried out searches at the offices of Twitter in Lado Sarai in south Delhi and Gurugram in connection with the matter.
A sweeping set of rules were issued on February 25 to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content. The new rules virtually bring these platforms, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision.
Among other things, the “Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021” regulations require these platforms to appoint chief compliance officers, in order to make sure the rules are followed, nodal officers, to coordinate with law enforcement agencies, and grievance officers. It also requires social media platforms with over 50 lakh users to help in identifying the “originator” of messages upon the government’s request.