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Delhi High Court asks Twitter to reply on plea seeking FIR against Rahul Gandhi

Twitter found itself in yet another political controversy when it took action against Gandhi’s account for violating its rules.

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The Delhi High Court issued a notice to Twitter on a plea that sought the registration of a first information report against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for allegedly revealing the identity of a Dalit minor girl who was raped and murdered in New Delhi, Live Law reported. The bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh directed the platform to file its reply on the matter by November 30.

On August 7, Twitter temporarily locked Congress politician Rahul Gandhi’s account for violating its rules after he tweeted a photograph of himself with the parents of the 9-year-old victim. Twitter had then said, “If a Tweet was found to be in violation of the Twitter Rules, and has yet to be deleted by the account holder, we hide it behind a notice and the account remains locked until the Tweet is removed or the appeal is successfully processed.”

This recent development comes after the micro-blogging platform restored his account. Live Law quoted Twitter’s counsel Sajan Poovayya as saying, “That particular tweet was removed. His account today is operational, without that tweet.” Based on the outcome of the proceedings, the bench decided not to issue notice to Gandhi, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), and the Commissioner of Delhi Police.

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According to IT Rules 2021, social media intermediaries like Twitter have to voluntarily remove any content violating any Indian law, especially those relating to child abuse. But this is just one of many instances in which Twitter has been mired in controversy after locking accounts or taking down tweets. In May 2021, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had written to Twitter to remove the manipulated media tag it had put on several BJP leaders’ tweets. Clearly, political censorship and content regulation are tricky areas for the social media platform.

NCPCR had asked Delhi Police to take action against Gandhi

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked Delhi Police and Twitter to take action over Gandhi’s photo. In a letter to Twitter’s Resident Grievance Redressal Officer, the child rights body said that the tweet violates the Juvenile Justice Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. NCPCR’s chairperson Pravin Kangoo had subsequently tweeted that the NCPCR had sent a notice to Twitter to start ‘proceedings’ against Rahul Gandhi and take down his tweet.

The NCPCR’s legal request provided context and was taken into account before making the decision to lock Gandhi’s account, MediaNama learned. According to Twitter, it has taken the same action against other accounts that posted the same image as Gandhi did.

Twitter’s run-ins with the NCPCR

  • In September 2020, Twitter had been asked to provide relevant information to the NCPCR, after the latter filed a complaint against three Twitter users for allegedly ‘harassing and torturing’ a minor girl on social media.
  • On June 14, the Commission had written to social media giants Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Telegram over illegal adoption posts on their platforms for children who have been orphaned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On June 30, the Commission had registered a case with the Delhi Police’s Cyber Cell against Twitter Inc for allegedly having child pornographic and sexual abuse content on their platform.
  • On July 6, the Commission had asked Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh to file a case against Twitter on charges of “encouraging people to involve children into terrorism”. According to the Hindustan Times, it cited a video on the platform that showed a child firing in the air.

Other cases of political content regulation in India

February 1: Twitter blocks roughly 250 accounts in response to a notice by the government. These included accounts belonging to The Caravan, a news magazine, as well as activists and organisations supporting the months-long farmers’ protests on the outskirts of Delhi. Six hours later, Twitter restores the accounts.

February 11: Twitter blocks Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Chaudhary Sukhram Singh Yadav’s account in India in response to a legal request.

April 24: Twitter complies with government requests to censor 52 tweets that mostly criticised India’s handling of the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included tweets by Revanth Reddy, a sitting Member of Parliament, and Moloy Ghatak, a West Bengal state minister.

May 21: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology writes to Twitter to remove the manipulated media tag it had put on several BJP leaders’ tweets. It also asks for clarification on how its policy (regarding manipulated media) was applicable in this case.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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