NEW DELHI: Social media and cyber experts expressed mixed reactions on Tuesday after Twitter India’s chief was booked for publishing an “incorrect map” of the country on the microblogging platform.
On Monday, police in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh named Manish Maheshwari and others in the report for depicting the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as a separate country.
This is the second case filed against the social media platform in Uttar Pradesh, a state ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with some experts saying that social media channels were at the receiving end of the government’s ire after “being misused for years.”
“Starting from 2013, social media platforms were used and abused by supporters of the BJP to spread half-truths, falsehoods, fake news and propaganda,” Paranjoy Guha Thakruta, a political analyst and social media expert, told Arab News.
“Today, after seven years, when Modi seems to me at his weakest, social media is being used to highlight weaknesses, maladministration … and people’s anger against the government’s failure,” added Thakurta, who co-authored the 2019 book “The Real Face of Facebook in India.”
Thakurta said that because Twitter is an international organization, a debate had sparked on whether it needed to follow Indian or international law.
“According to the Indian law, you cannot show a map which does not include … the disputed territory in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh,” Thakurta said.
“If you go outside India and Pakistan, occupied Kashmir or Azad Kashmir is removed from the map of India, but in India, if you show something like this, it will go against the law. This is a bigger problem. Twitter is an international organization. So should Twitter follow Indian law or the US law?” he added.
However, cyber expert and advocate Prashant Mali said that Twitter’s “mistake” was deliberate.
“When Twitter used the map wrongly the first time, it could have been a genuine mistake, but when you do it again, it looks to be on purpose,” Mali told Arab News.
In October, Twitter had wrongly tagged India’s Himalayan territory of Leh as a part of China.
At the time, New Delhi wrote a strong letter to the microblogging company, warning Twitter that any attempt to disrespect the sovereignty and integrity of India was “unlawful and unacceptable.” It also questioned the US-based company’s “fairness” as an intermediary.
“The Indian government wants to tighten the screw as these US companies, over the years, have shown their diplomatic muscle to India as the law was absent. Now, India is in a mood to take legal action within its powers so that other IT companies don’t show eyes to India and its law,” Mali added.
Meanwhile, a leader of the Bajrang Dal — a radical Hindu outfit and an ideological affiliate of the BJP — who filed the case against Twitter accused the platform of “deliberate anti-India activity.”
Praveen Bhati told Arab News: “That’s why … I have lodged cases against them (Amrita Tripathi and Manish Maheshwari) and Twitter and asked the administration to arrest them as soon as possible.”
Last week, Maheshwari was summoned by the Uttar Pradesh police over another case related to a Twitter post concerning a Muslim man being attacked in the Ghaziabad district.
The police complained that the social media platform had deliberately allowed a “false video” of him being tortured and beaten by Hindu men to be circulated, but Maheshwari got temporary relief from arrest from the Karnataka High Court.
The latest incidents add to prevailing tensions between the government and Twitter since February, when New Delhi formulated new rules requiring all social networking websites to have India-based officers and act on complaints of content considered “illegal, offensive or inimical to national interests.”
Twitter has not complied fully with the new laws, resulting in a tussle with the Indian government.
“Social media is a double-edged sword, and BJP supporters are getting the taste of their own medicine,” Thakurta said.