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Delhi Police registers POCSO case against Twitter, platform says ‘zero tolerance policy’ on child sexual exploitation

Days after the National Commissioner for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) issued a notice to Delhi Police for not taking action on its complaint about the availability of child pornographic material on Twitter, various reports said that the Delhi Police has registered an FIR against the social media company. This is the third case that has been booked against Twitter on Tuesday, the other two against Twitter India employee Manish Maheshwari for the social media company’s inaccurate depiction of Jammu and Kashmir on a world map on the platform’s website.

Various organisations including news agency ANI, NDTV, and others reported that Delhi Police Cyber Cell has filed a case against Twitter for alleged child pornographic content on their platform. ANI reported that the case was registered against Twitter under POCSO Act and IT Act on the basis of NCPCR’s complaint.

MediaNama was not able to independently confirm the registration of the FIR. We have reached out to Delhi Police DCP (Cyber Cell) Anyesh Roy, Delhi Police Spokesperson Chinmoy Biswal, and police officials in the Special Cell of Delhi Police with detailed queries regarding the situation. We have also reached out to Priyank Kanungo, chairperson of NCPCR and the copy will be updated when we receive a response.

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Meanwhile, a Twitter Spokesperson told MediaNama, “Twitter has a zero-tolerance policy for child sexual exploitation (CSE) and we have a proactive approach to combating sexual exploitation of minors on our service. We have been at the forefront of responding to the evolving challenge of preventing the exploitation of children on the Internet and will continue to aggressively fight online child sexual abuse, as well as invest in the technology and tools that are essential to stay ahead of this issue. We will continue to invest in proactive detection and removal of content that violates the Twitter Rules and work with law enforcement and NGO partners in India to tackle the issue.”

Twitter said that all viewing, sharing, or linking to child sexual exploitation (CSE) material, regardless of the intent, contributes to the re-victimisation of the depicted children and is prohibited on its service. This includes media, text, illustrations, or computer-generated images. This also applies to content that may further contribute to the victimisation of children through the promotion or glorification of child sexual exploitation. For the purposes of this policy, Twitter defines a minor as any person under the age of 18.

NCPCR pulled up Delhi Police top cop for non-action

On June 26, NCPCR in a detailed notice wherein the commission summoned Anyesh Roy, the DCP in the Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police, for alleged non-action and said that it had conducted an enquiry into the availability of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on the platform. The commission said that it had forwarded the findings of the enquiry to Delhi Police at the end of May and had requested the Delhi police to —

  • Register an FIR against Twitter Inc and Twitter Communications India Private Limited under Section 11/15/19 of the POCSO Act
  • Cases under Section 199/292 of IPC and any other relevant Sections of the IT Act and IPC
  • Furnish action taken within 7 days

However, despite waiting a month, NCPCR did not receive any response from Delhi Police, the commission stated in their notice. “NOW, THEREFORE, in pursuance of the above functions and powers u/s. 13 & 14 of the CPCR Act, 2005, the Commission was informed that the matter is marked to you from the office of Commissioner of Police, Delhi, therefore, the Commission is constrained to issue this Summons for you to appear before the Commission through video conferencing on 29t of June, 2021 at 1300 hrs on (Tuesday) along with the requisite action taken report,” the commission said in the notice.

Twitter’s tool for detecting child pornography

  • According to Twitter, the platform uses PhotoDNA technology, their own proprietary tools, and other systems to detect behavioural signals to remove media. This, they said, helps in removing new accounts that are linked to accounts that upload such content.
  • Twitter said that in 2019, it launched a feature in its search prompt for preventing child sexual exploitation (CSE). The feature was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs and NGOs in India to blacklist specific CSE search keywords in Hindi, English, Bengali, and Kannada.

Twitter in troubled waters

Earlier in the day, Uttar Pradesh Police and Bhopal Police named Twitter India’s Manish Maheshwari in a first information report over a map on Twitter’s website showing J&K as a separate country. The map in question was displayed in the “Tweep Life” section of Twitter’s careers page. Although it appears that the incorrect map has been on Twitter’s website since May (MediaNama verified this by checking the archived version of the site), the issue was thrown into the spotlight only yesterday. The map was removed within hours after the company faced public backlash and the government said it was looking into the matter.

Apart from that, here are some of the recent controversies concerning Twitter —

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  • IT Minister’s account locked: Last Friday, Twitter locked Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s personal account over violation of copyright laws. The account was unlocked within an hour, but RS Prasad called out Twitter for taking actions that were in violation of the IT Rules. “Twitter’s actions indicate that they are not the harbinger of free speech that they claim to be but are only interested in running their own agenda, with the threat that if you do not tow the line they draw, they will arbitrarily remove you from their platform,” Prasad added.
  • Ghaziabad case: On June 16, the Uttar Pradesh police lodged an FIR against Twitter and others in connection with tweets on an elderly man who was allegedly assaulted in Ghaziabad. Twitter was named as an accused in the case as it had allegedly failed to delete ‘provocative’ tweets despite clarification regarding the matter by Ghaziabad Police. Later, the Ghaziabad Police sent a legal notice to the Managing Director of Twitter India in connection with the case, asking the official to himself in the Loni Border station within a week. However, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday passed an interim order restraining the Uttar Pradesh Police from initiating any coercive action against Twitter Communications India Private Ltd’s Manish Maheshwari.
  • Compliance with IT Rules: Twitter is yet to fully comply with IT Rules 2021 that went into effect on May 25. The platform had appointed a resident grievance officer, nodal contact person, and chief compliance officer on an interim basis, but the government pointed out that the grievance officer and nodal contact person nominated by the company were not employees of the platform and the office address submitted by the company was that of a law firm. To make matters worse, Dharmendra Chatur, Twitter’s interim grievance officer quit his position on June 28, forcing the company to reappoint its US-based employee as the grievance officer, which is against the rules. As of now, Twitter remains non-compliant with the IT Rules and its career page has openings for all three roles.
  • Standing Committee notice: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology asked Twitter to appear before them on June 18 on the subject of safeguarding citizen rights and misuse of social media/news platforms. Twitter reportedly accepted before the committee that it gives priority to its own laid down policies over Indian law in cases of conflict, which led the panel to conclude that the social media company was in violation of the IT Act, 2000. According to a report by Economic Times, the panel questioned Twitter India representatives on June 18 on various issues such as the appointment of a full-time compliance officer, its status of being an intermediary, and so on for over 90 minutes. At the end of the meeting, the panel reportedly gave Twitter representatives queries to which the social media company has to provide answers soon.
  • Manipulated media case: Delhi police served a notice and visited two offices of Twitter in May in connection with an alleged Indian National Congress-created toolkit. Twitter had labelled tweets of BJP politicians including spokesperson Sambit Patra and others on the alleged toolkit prepared by Congress as “manipulated media.” The tweets alleged that Congress had created this toolkit to defame the Prime Minister and “undermine” the government’s Covid-19 vaccination policy. Soon after, Delhi Police sent a notice to Twitter seeking clarification on the usage of the term “manipulated media” since the matter was under investigation.

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