Update: Twitter has reinstated all the tweets according to Manjul, however there is no official word from Twitter yet.
Earlier: Twitter deleted two political cartoons on the issue of Lokpal bill posted by DNA India cartoonist Manjul over the past three days. The first cartoon, starring protector of free speech Kapil Sibal*, was originally posted on Saturday night. The second cartoon took a small jab at Rahul Gandhi and was posted last night. Manjul told Medianama that both the cartoons were deleted twice. While the first cartoon re-appeared later today, the second cartoon stayed up after it was uploaded for the third time. MediaNama has written to Twitter for inputs regarding its policy regarding censorship, why this particular cartoon was censored, and if a third party had filed complaints, then information on who filed the complaint.
Update: As rightly pointed out by Venkata Satish, we have no way of ascertaining the veracity of the claim that these cartoons were deleted, although we have no reason for doubting Manjul’s claims. We’ll update in case Twitter responds.
“I drew the first cartoon a year ago, and posted it on Saturday night again as Lokpal bill was in news. In the morning I realised it wasn’t there anymore, but I thought it didn’t upload or there was a problem with Twitter. So I kept language of the post and everything the same and posted it, but it was deleted again. Last evening, I posted the Rahul Gandhi cartoon which received about 30-35 retweets, and then disappeared. So I re-uploaded it at night and that one got 80-85 retweets. Later on that tweet was also removed. I then tweeted to @twitter and @twitterIndia questioning their decision to remove the tweet, but I did not get any response from them,” he says. The Kapil Sibal tweets were reinstated, but there was no comment from Twitter.
— MANJUL (@MANJULtoons) December 15, 2013
— MANJUL (@MANJULtoons) December 16, 2013
It needs to be noted that Twitter did not send out an official mail to Manjul informing him about the deletion, neither was any reason given. That being the case, Manjul was not sure what procedure to follow for contesting the takedown.
“I was very happy with social media and Internet as it gave me more reach that what my newspaper offers me. Once I post something online it goes everywhere and that gives me a sense of satisfaction. In this case I did not do anything outrageous, or abuse anyone. I have seen people write worse things about politicians and I’m not into that. Newspapers have to tow a line when it comes to cartoons or else my editor will be in jail. This was cartoon that appeared in the paper so I don’t understand why it had to removed online,” he says.
There were several people who told Manjul that Twitter’s India head Rishi Jaitley attends Congress meetings and that this might be related to that. However, he does not believe in that theory. It also needs to be remembered that Jaitley visited DNA office in May this year and interacted with the team on how they can use Twitter.
Twitter & Chilling Effects Disclosures
As we’ve written in the past, Jaitley’s mandate is to increase the usage of Twitter, and Twitter tends to be apolitical. However, incidents such as these only give its detractors more ammunition. Twitter needs to be transparent about takedowns, should inform those using the service that their tweet has been taken down, and provide them with a way to contest the takedown.
We checked, and it’s worth noting that Twitter hasn’t updated the Chilling Effects database, which discloses takedowns, since October end. Interestingly, the only complaint regarding defamation on the Chilling Effects database from India in 2013, was filed by the Indian Express with Google, against the MediaCrooks. More on that here.
*- sarcasm, in case you didn’t notice