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Friday, June 25, 2021

‘Obfuscatory, diversionary, and tendentious’: Delhi Police hits back at Twitter

This comes hours after Twitter US released a statement on Delhi Police’s inquiry into the Toolkit case, saying there’s a “potential threat to freedom of expression” for its users.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: May 27, 2021 9:53:56 pm
A team of Delhi Police's Special Cell visits the Twitter India's Lado Sarai office in connection with the probe into the alleged ''COVID toolkit'' matter, in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

Hours after Twitter US released a statement on Delhi Police’s inquiry into the Toolkit case, saying there’s a “potential threat to freedom of expression” for its users, the Delhi Police on Thursday reverted calling the statement “mendacious” and “designed to impede a lawful inquiry…”.

A Twitter Spokesperson released a statement: “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, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules. We plan to advocate for changes to elements of these regulations that inhibit free, open public conversation”

This comes two days after the Delhi Police’s Special Cell visited Twitter’s Delhi and Gurgaon office to serve a notice asking the company officials to join in the probe regarding the alleged “toolkit” seeking to undermine the Indian government’s response to Covid-19, released on Twitter.

On Thursday, Delhi Police PRO Chinmoy Biswal, said, “Twitter Inc. has taken upon itself, in the garb of terms of service, to adjudicate the truth or otherwise of documents in public space. Twitter Inc. is purporting to be both an investigating authority as well as an adjudicating judicial authority. It has no legal sanction to be either. The only legal entity, so empowered by the duly laid down law, to investigate is the Police and to adjudicate is the Courts.”

BJP Spokesperson Patra posted a tweet with screenshots of the toolkit, saying it was a Congress plot to malign the Prime Minister and central government over its handling of the pandemic. After this, the Delhi Police’s Special Cell received complaints from Congress Media Head Rohan Gupta and Spokesperson MV Rajeev Gowda against BJP leaders Sambit Patra and others for “forging a letterhead” on a toolkit that wasn’t created by their party.

Meanwhile, Twitter tagged Patra’s tweets as “manipulated media”. The Special Cell said they “seek information that Twitter has and they don’t”

DCP Biswal said, “While placing the cart before the horse, Twitter went ahead and declared that the toolkit was ‘Manipulated Media’. This clearly demonstrates that Twitter Inc. was acquainted with the facts of the case and it had material information which was germane to the inquiry by a duly recognized law enforcement agency. Therefore, Twitter was asked, by way of multiple communications, to join the inquiry to provide the information it possesses.”

On Tuesday, the police claimed that they mailed notices to Twitter executives including the Managing Director but the company’s replies to the mails were “ambiguous”. DCP Biswal said the MD “chose to adopt a path of evasiveness instead of cooperation.” Two teams of Special Cell were then sent to Delhi and Gurgaon’s office to hand over the notice and start a probe. However, both the offices were locked and the teams returned.

“The entire conduct by Twitter Inc, including its Indian entity, in the last few days, has been obfuscatory, diversionary, and tendentious. There is one simple thing to do which Twitter refuses to do. That is, cooperate with the law enforcement and reveal to the legal authority the information it has,” said DCP Biswal.

Senior police officials from Special Cell said the MD and other executives replied to their notices saying they are merely employees of the India office and have no role in the operations related to the probe. “Twitter India’s convoluted stance is similar to a deer caught in the headlights,” said the Delhi Police in their statement.

Police said the microblogging website’s fear-mongering is “unfounded and misplaced”. Police claim they just sent notices to executives to join the probe not as “an accused” but as someone who has information the police doesn’t

Meanwhile, on May 19, police in Chhattisgarh registered a case against Patra and former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh over the “toolkit” tweets. Congress officials wrote to Delhi Police that the other state has initiated a probe.

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