Uttar Pradesh Police has named Twitter, several Journalists and Congress Leaders in an FIR filed in Ghaziabad over ‘inciting communal unrest’ over a viral video of an old man being assaulted. While the man, a Muslim, alleged that he was attacked because of his religion and was forced to chant Jai Shree Ram, the police probe has clearly revealed that the incident has no communal angle.
Ghaziabad Police SSP Amit Pathak said the accused were unhappy over an amulet the elderly man had sold them. He was quoted as saying, “During the inquiry, no communal angle found. As per them (accused), it’s a case of personal dispute over an amulet”. Interestingly, six people, including Muslims, have now been arrested, completely ruling out the involvement of a communal angle.
However, as the incident’s video went viral on social media, Twitter saw mass tweets circulating unverified claims giving a communal color to the incident, which the UP Police has called incitement of unrest. “This is irresponsible and unverified. We’ve registered FIR against those who published this on social media to give it a different angle.”
The FIR names Twitter Inc, Twitter Communications India, news website The Wire, journalists Mohammed Zubair and Rana Ayyub, Congress leaders Dr Sama Mohammad, Salman Nizami, Masqoor Usmani and writer Saba Naqvi.
The tweets were shared with a clear motive to “provoke communal sentiments”, says the FIR, adding that the “misleading” posts were re-tweeted by thousands of people. The complaint further said Ghaziabad Police had “put out a clarification” via their Twitter handle on Monday night, but the users did not delete the posts and Twitter took no action to remove them.
‘Fact-checking’ organisation Alt News co-founder Zubair, one of the accused in the case, said he had deleted the videos after knowing that the victim’s version of him being forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” at this point in time did not seem to add up based on his conversations with police and journalists.
It is important to note that Twitter has now lost intermediary status and could lose legal protection because of its failure to comply with new rules requiring it to appoint key officers in India. This means it could now be liable for content that is published on the social media platform and cannot claim protection under the “safe harbor clause”.
Hence, if there is any charge against Twitter for alleged unlawful content it would be treated as a publisher – not an intermediary – and be liable for punishment under any law, including IT Act, as also the penal laws of the country.
It is worth noting that in the past, Twitter has been quick to label tweets as ‘manipulated media’, particularly when the victims have been Hindus.