On Monday, a team of officers from the Special Cell, an elite branch of the police force tasked with investigating terrorism and organized crime in New Delhi, took to Twitter offices in the city to “serve a warning” to the head of Twitter in India. Police also tried to enter a Twitter office in Gurugram, a site that has been permanently shut down, a Twitter spokesman told BuzzFeed News.
The move came three days after Twitter put a “manipulated media” label on it tweets of half a dozen members of the Indian Bharatiya Janata party, in which they had accused the Indian National Congress, the main opposition party, of plotting to harm Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his second-wave treatment of coronavirus pandemic in India.
In an image that members circulated, they stated that the Indian National Congress had given special medical favors to journalists affected by the pandemic among other things. AltNews, an Indian fact-checking site, found that the image was falsified. (Congress also filed a police complaint against Sambit Patra, the BJP spokesman who initially shared the image.) On Friday, India’s IT ministry he sent a letter to the company asking them to remove the labels. Twitter didn’t.
A Twitter spokesman declined to comment.
Several Delhi Police spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment. But IT sources told BuzzFeed News that they went to the Twitter office to serve a notice to Twitter as part of a “routine process,” after receiving “ambiguous responses” from the general manager of BuzzFeed News. Twitter India, Manish Maheshwari.
In videos of the police action seen by BuzzFeed News, officials walk up to the receptionist in the lobby of the New Delhi palace containing the Indian headquarters of Twitter and ask the security guards the situation of the office. It is unclear if police entered the office.
For months, Twitter has closed its horns with the Indian government. In February, the company refused to censor tweets belonging to journalists, activists and politicians in the country despite the Indian government’s order to do so, and despite threats from the IT ministry to imprisoning Twitter officials for not towing the government line.
At the end of February, the Indian government svilatu new regulations to assume greater power over social media sites. On Friday, it issued an order asking platforms to remove content that referred to an “Indian variant” of the coronavirus, according to to Reuters.