New Delhi: Cartoonist Manjul, who has worked for some of the top national dailies in the country, has been witter has been informed by Twitter that it had received a legal request from Indian law enforcement agencies to take action against his social media profile, claiming that it “violates the law(s) of India.”
The political cartoonist shared this information with his Twitter followers on Friday.
However, in the email, Twitter said it had not taken any action on the reported content -- https://twitter.com/MANJULtoons -- and informed the political cartoonist that he could take legal recourse if he wished to challenge the government’s request or even contact civil society organisations to seek a resolution or voluntarily delete content.
No specific tweet or cartoon was mentioned in the government’s ‘legal request’, it seems, and only the cartoonist’s ‘social profile’ is what has been objected to by the government.
Reacting to the email, Manjul tweeted: “Jai ho Modi ji ki sarkaar ki (Hail the Modi government).”
Of late, Manjul has made several hard-hitting cartoons on the second wave of the pandemic, of people struggling for oxygen, or cremating their loved ones, hundreds of corpses found floating in rivers and government’s vaccine policy.
After the Twitter email became public, support poured in for the cartoonists from various quarters as well as hundreds of his fans and followers on social media.
Incidentally, right now there is a war of words going on between the Narendra Modi government and Twitter after the Congress ‘toolkit’ tweet involving some ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, which has been marked as “manipulated media” by Twitter.
On May 18, BJP leader Sambit Patra had alleged that Congress had created a ‘toolkit’, basically talk-points to create a Twitter storm, aimed at sullying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image with regard to his “mismanagement” of the pandemic crisis. Congress has alleged that the document flagged in the tweet is fake.
Following this, the Delhi Police, which falls under the Union Home Ministry, carried out midnight searches at Twitter offices in Delhi and Gurugram.
This development also comes in the backdrop of the Modi government coming out with a new set of sweeping rules to “regulate” social media companies and those involved creating digital news content, as also OTT platforms.
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In fact, the government had expressed its intention in Parliament to amend IT laws to make social media more accountable to Indian laws.
Earlier, Twitter had resisted the Centre’s order to block over 1,500 accounts that were posting “objectionable” content related to farmers’ protest in Delhi.
According to a report in Scroll.in, in April, 52 tweets were taken down from the social media platform following orders from the government. The Centre claimed they were spreading fake news, but the majority of these tweets were critical of its handling of the health crisis as the second wave in India led to states grappling with shortages of hospital beds, oxygen, medicines and vaccines.
Posts by Congress leaders Pawan Khera, Revanth Reddy, West Bengal minister Moloy Ghatak, actor Vineet Kumar Singh, filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das were among those blocked, said the report.
Read Also: Are New IT Rules the Next Sedition Law?
The “Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021” regulations, among other things, require these platforms to appoint chief compliance officers, in order to make sure the rules are followed, nodal officers, to coordinate with law enforcement agencies, and grievance officers. It also requires social media platforms with over 50 lakh users to help in identifying the “originator” of messages upon the government’s request.
The new IT rules have been legally challenged by some digital news platforms, such as The Wire and The Quint, including some social media companies.