On Monday, a team of officers from the Special Cell, an elite division of the police force responsible for investigating terrorism and organized crime in New Delhi, came to Twitter’s offices in the city to ask the head of Twitter in India “Notice” to be delivered. Police also tried to enter a Twitter office in Gurugram, a location that has been permanently closed, a Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
The move came three days after Twitter tagged the tweets of half a dozen members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party as “manipulated media” accusing India’s national congress, the main opposition party, of supplying the Indian prime minister damage Minister Narendra Modi for his handling of the second wave of India’s coronavirus pandemic.
In a picture circulated by members, they alleged that the Indian National Congress granted special medical favors to journalists affected by the pandemic, among other things. AltNews, an Indian fact-checking website, found the picture to be fake. (Congress also filed a police complaint against Sambit Patra, the BJP spokesman who originally shared the picture.) On Friday, India’s IT ministry sent the company a letter asking it to remove the labels . Twitter doesn’t.
A Twitter spokesman declined to comment.
Several Delhi Police spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment. However, law enforcement sources told BuzzFeed News that, as part of a “routine process”, they went to Twitter’s office to notify Twitter after receiving “ambiguous responses” from Twitter India chief executive Manish Maheshwari.
In videos of police operations from BuzzFeed News, officers go to the reception desk in the lobby of the building in New Delhi where Twitter’s Indian headquarters are located and ask security forces for the location of the office. It is unclear whether the police entered the office.
For months, Twitter has been locking horns with the Indian government. In February, the company refused to censor tweets from journalists, activists and politicians in the country despite orders from the Indian government and the IT ministry threatening to jail Twitter officials for failing to tow the line of government.
In late February, the Indian government introduced new regulations to gain more power over social media companies. On Friday, according to Reuters, it issued an order to ask platforms to remove content related to an “Indian variant” of the coronavirus.