India’s central government has issued a notice to Twitter for showing Leh as a part of Jammu and Kashmir Instead of the Union Territory of Ladakh, as per the IT ministry sources. In the notice, the ministry has directed the microblogging platform to explain within five working days why the Indian government should not take action against it and its representatives for showing an incorrect map and disrespecting Indian territorial integrity (1).
The Ministry of Electronics and IT has issued the notice to Twitter on November 9, as per the sources. As soon as the news of notice came out, several rattled social media users demanded a ban on the portal for “disrespecting India’s territorial integrity,” and #BanTwitter started trending.
The government has given Twitter to explain within “five working days,” and if Twitter does not respond or its explanation is not satisfactory, the government is considering several actions. It can block Twitter access under the Information Technology Act, Section69A, and file a police case under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, with up to six months imprisonment.
Netizen Slam “One-way Policy” of Twitter
Several users started slamming Twitter for its one-way policies. One of the users also tweeted that “I would highly recommend to #BanTwitter in the country until Twitter explains the reasons for repetitively showing Jammu and Kashmir as part of China.”
Netizens are lashing out at Twitter while questioning whether the tech company is above the law of the land. They have urged Union Minister and the center to take strict action against the platform.
The development came while India is in a border standoff with China. It has compounded the anti-china sentiments among Indians. Recently, China had claimed that the Indian territories of Ladakh and Arunachal are part of China. And it had social media users going into agitation (2).
It is worth highlighting that it is not the first time Twitter has committed this “mistake.” Back in 2016, it showed the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state under Pakistan and China’s territory. At that time, the center had also come forward with a “The Geospatial Information regulation Bill 2016.” The draft bill read (3),
“Whoever acquired any geospatial information of India in contravention of the law shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rs 1 crore to Rs 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.”
However, it was later removed.
According to PTI (4), while responding to the issue, a Twitter spokesperson stated that they have dully responded to the letter and, according to the correspondence, have also shared a comprehensive update with the latest developments related to the geotag issue.
The spokesperson further added that Twitter is committed to partnering with the government and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (5) to subserve the public conversation.
Twitter Showed Leh As a Part of China
Earlier, Twitter had shown Leh as part of China, following which the IT secretary had written a stern letter to its CEO, Jack Dorsey (6). In response, the microblogging site had repaced China with Jammu and Kashmir. However, it has not yet corrected the map and showed Leh as part of the Union Territory of Ladakh. It is still showing Leh as a part of J & K, and it is against the official position of the Indian government.
In the notice, the government had stated to the micro-blogging platform, showing Leh as a part of Jammu & Kashmir is a “deliberate attempt” by the microblogging platform (7) to undermine the will of the sovereign parliament of India, which has declared Ladakh as a Union Territory with its headquarters in Leh, as per sources.
In the previous month, Twitter came under heavy criticism and faced a social media backlash after its geotagging feature displayed “Jammu and Kashmir, the People’s Republic of China” in Leh’s Hall of Fame live broadcast, a memorial for Ladakh’s fallen soldiers.
At that time, the government had conveyed to Twitter that if the social media giant makes any attempt to “disrespect sovereignty and integrity of India, which is also reflected by the maps, it is unacceptable and unlawful.”
Notably, on August 5 last year, when the center scrapped the state J & K’s special status under Article 370, it divided the state into two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh (8).
Parliamentary Panel on Twitter
When Twitter showed Ladakh as part of China, A Parliamentary Standing Committee was coming down heavily on Twiter and stated that it had conducted a “treason.” The committee has also insisted that the US-based parent company and not its Indian arm should submit the explanation as an affidavit.
According to the sources, before appearing in front of the parliament’s joint committee on Data Protection Bill, representatives of Twitter India “begged apology.” However, the members told them that it was a criminal offense and questioned the nation’s sovereignty. They asked the member to submit an affidavit by Twitter Inc., not by Twitter India, its marketing arm.
Notably, based in Singapore, Twitter Asia primarily deals with advertisement revenues and takes all major decisions related to the region.
The panel members questioned them for more than two hours, mainly focusing on showing Ladakh a part of China on the Twitter app.
After the meeting, Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP lawmaker, told PTI that the committee has a unanimous option that Twitter’s explanation about showing Ladakh as part of China is inadequate.
She added that the Twitter representative told the panel that the social media company respects India’s sensitivities. However, it is not only a question of India’s or Indians’ sensitivity. It is a question of national integrity and sovereignty, and not respecting it is a criminal offense.
Lekhi further stated that improper or incorrect display of an Indian map is treason and attracts imprisonment of seven years.
The panel also asked Twitter regarding its banning policy.
“Shadowbanning, banning policy, there is no clarity about it. Such actions are very subjective. Twitter is becoming a law onto themselves, and under these circumstances, they are violating Article 19 of the Constitution about the freedom of expression.”
– Meenakshi Lekhi, BJP Lawmaker (9).
Some members also raised the question about its transparency policies and its actions during elections as per sources.
Shagufta Kumran, Public Policy Senior Manager, Pallavi Walia, Policy Communications, Ayushi Kapoor, Legal Counsel, and Manvinder Bali, Corporate Security, are deposed officials on behalf of Twitter India before the panel.
Twitter Locking Amit Shah’s Account
On Thursday, Twitter had removed Amit Shah’s display image from the platform in response to a “report from the copyright holder.” It also locked Amit Shah’s, the Home Minister of India, verified Twitter handle. The microblogging portal soon restores it after stating that it happened because of an “inadvertent error.”
It showed a message on display, “Media not displayed. This image has been removed in response to a report from the copyright holder.” However, when one clicked on the picture, it was the Indian Home Minister’s account with 23.6 million followers on Twitter (10).
However, the Twitter spokesperson stated that (11)
“due to an inadvertent error, we temporarily locked this account under our global copyright policies. This decision was reversed immediately, and the account is fully functional.”
According to Twitter’s copyright policy (12),
“in general, the photographer and not the subject of a photograph is the actual rights holder of the resulting photograph.”
Earlier this month, Twitter had also removed the display image of the BCCI, Board of Cricket Control in India, citing this policy.
A similar incident happened a week ago with Subramanian Swamy’s, Senior BJP leader Tweeter account. Twitter had blocked his profile and his banner photo, citing copyright violations for more than a week.
According to reports, the microblogging platformed restored the photos on Thursday evening after Dr. Swamy’s lawyers and secretary Jagdish Shetty (13) contacted Twitter and warned it of legal action. It explained that the team was acting based on a complaint of an unknown individual from Bangladesh.
The “inadvertent” locking of the Home Minister’s profile came close on the heels of the Indian government to issue a notice to Twitter for showing Leh as part of J & K instead of Union Territory of Ladakh.