A team of the Delhi Police Special Cell landed up at the offices of Twitter India in Delhi's Lado Sarai and Gurugram on Monday, 24 May.
According to sources cited by news agency ANI, the police team went to the offices to serve a notice to the company, as a part of a "routine process". "This was necessitated as it was to ascertain who the right person was to serve a notice, as replies by Twitter India MD had been very ambiguous," the sources were quoted as saying.
Visuals showed the Delhi Police team at the empty office in Delhi, with workplaces being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier, the police had sent a notice and sought a clarification from Twitter regarding the classification of a tweet by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sambit Patra as ‘manipulated media’.
The tweet pertains to the 'toolkit', which BJP leaders said was allegedly created by the Congress to target the government over its handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
"Delhi Police is enquiring into a complaint in which clarification is sought from the Twitter regarding the classification of a tweet by Sambit Patra as 'manipulative'. It appears that Twitter has some information which is not known to us on the basis of which they have classified it as such. The information is relevant to the inquiry. Special Cell, which is conducting the inquiry, wants to find out the truth. Twitter, which has claimed to know the underlying truth, should clarify," the Delhi Police said in a statement.
Govt ‘Asks’ Twitter to Remove ‘Manipulated’ Tag on Toolkit Posts
Last week, the Government of India had made a "strong" communication to Twitter, objecting to use of the 'manipulated media' tags on certain tweets by Indian politicians, and asked the social media company to remove them "in the interest of fairness and equity," sources in the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) had been cited as saying by news agency ANI.
"The Ministry has further stated that Twitter unilaterally chose to go ahead and designate certain tweets as 'manipulated', pending investigation. This action not only dilutes the credibility of Twitter but also puts a question mark on the status of Twitter as an 'intermediary'," the sources were quoted as saying.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra's tweet was tagged as 'manipulated media' by Twitter two days after the party accused Congress for making a 'toolkit' targeting the government over its COVID handling.
On 18 May, Patra had shared screenshots of the alleged ‘toolkit’, claiming that the Congress had created the document to “corner” Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his handling of the pandemic.
The Congress, meanwhile, had approached the Delhi Police with a complaint against several BJP leaders, and accused them of 'forgery'. The party also wrote a formal complaint to Twitter, seeking suspension of accounts of BJP leaders who were "indulging in spreading forged documents attributing to Congress".
Attempts of Murdering Free Speech Lay Bare BJP’s Guilt: Surjewala, Others React
Reacting to the development on social media, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted that the "cowardly raid” undertaken by Delhi Police “exposes lame duck attempts to hide the fraudulent toolkit by BJP leaders."
Tagging a video statement, he stated further that “such attempts to murder freedom of speech lay bare the BJP's guilt.”
Alleging that the ruling party forged documents to fabricate a ‘toolkit’, Surjewala says in the video, “subjugation of free speech, the attempts to stifle every voice that is a dissenting voice against this government and the state-sponsored fraudulent means to propagate and to instill fear continue unabated in Modi government.”
Senior Congress leader KC Venugopala stated, “BJP's dictatorial behaviour will not last, the people of India will not be silenced, the truth will not be silenced,” while former Cabinet Minister Kapil Sibal also alluded to the raids in a sardonic jab.
Party members from Shiv Sena, CPI(M) also criticised the raids at the social media platform’s office. Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi wrote:
Calling the incident “shameful” and “inhuman,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury attacked the government over its priorities.