A video of the assault has been circulating on social media since June 14. It shows 72-year-old Abdul Samad Saifi saying that he had been abducted in an autorickshaw by several men and locked up in a secluded house on June 5 in Ghaziabad district’s Loni area. Saifi alleged he was assaulted and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. He also said the assailants cut his beard and made him watch videos of other Muslims being attacked.
The Ghaziabad Police, which registered a case based on Saifi’s complaint, on June 15 claimed that there was no communal angle to the assault. The police also claimed that the tweets on the viral video were “an attempt to destroy communal harmony”.
Twitter has now limited access to the tweets for users in India, Medianama reported, citing a filing on American collaborative archive Lumen Database. The social media platform received the request from law enforcement on June 17, according to a notice. The action taken was listed as “partial”.
A Twitter spokesperson told Medianama that the action taken against the tweets were in line with the platform’s “Country Withheld Policy”. “...it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in response to a valid legal demand or when the content has been found to violate local law(s),” the statement read. “The withholdings are limited to the specific jurisdiction/country where the content is determined to be illegal.”
The spokesperson said that in such cases, the account holder is notified so that the user is aware that Twitter has received a legal order, according to Medianama. “The legal requests that we receive are detailed in the biannual Twitter Transparency Report, and requests to withhold content are published on Lumen,” the Twitter official added.
On June 17, the Ghaziabad Police sent a legal notice to Twitter India Managing Director Manish Maheshwari in the case. He was directed to report to the the Loni border police station within seven days to record his statement.
On June 15, the Uttar Pradesh police filed a case over tweets posted by The Wire, journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi and Mohammad Zubair and Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Masqoor Usmani and Sama Mohammad. This FIR also mentioned Twitter.
The FIR, lodged by a police officer, alleged that they had put out tweets with the intention of stoking communal unrest. The FIR stated that despite a clarification being put out, ruling out any communal angle, the users did not delete their posts and Twitter took no action to remove them.
The Delhi Police has also received a complaint against Maheshwari, actor Swara Bhasker and The Wire senior editor Arfa Khanum Sherwani and others for tweeting about the assault.
Why has Twitter been booked?
On June 16, Union Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Twitter has been booked in the case as it failed to comply with the Centre’s new social media rules. His comments came amid reports that Twitter had lost its “intermediary status” due to non-compliance of the rules.
However, Prasad, did not directly confirm or deny if Twitter had indeed lost its intermediary status.
“There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision,” he had said. “However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the intermediary guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May.”
Experts dealing with laws related to the internet, however, suggested that the new rules do not contain any power or process for grant or revocation of an intermediary status of social media platforms or other websites.