Indian police probe Twitter over Kashmir map

Indian police have filed preliminary charges against senior Twitter officials over an inaccurate map of the country, an official said Tuesday, in the latest escalation between the US firm and New Delhi.

Uttar Pradesh state police said the criminal case was filed against two Twitter India officials late Monday following a complaint from the local head of a Hindu nationalist group that the US firm’s website showed the disputed Kashmir region as an independent country.

The map was already taken down from Twitter’s “Tweep Life” career section after an uproar by social media users on Monday against the micro-blogging site.

A police official told AFP that Twitter’s India head Manish Maheshwari and another senior employee were being investigated for breaching India’s IT laws and causing public mischief.

“This act has hurt the sentiments of Indians, including me,” Praveen Bhati from Bajrang Dal, a militant Hindu group, said in his complaint.

The government has taken a tough stance against any perceived distortion of India’s borders in recent years, particularly over the depiction of Kashmir that is partly ruled by India and Pakistan but claimed in full by the South Asian arch-rivals.

Twitter has been locked for several months in an acrimonious row with New Delhi over new rules for social media companies operating in India.

The regulations require firms to remove and identify the “first originator” of posts deemed to undermine India’s sovereignty, state security or public order.

Social media companies and privacy activists fear the vagueness of the rules means they could be forced to identify the authors of posts critical of the government.

WhatsApp is challenging the rules in court, fearing that it will have to break its system of encryption that prevents anyone other than the sender and receiver from reading messages.

The government has said that failing to comply could strip tech companies of the legal protection granted to intermediaries in India.

In what could be a test case, earlier this month police charged Twitter with serious criminal offences for hosting a video that showed a Muslim man being assaulted.

Police have accused Twitter of stoking sectarian tensions and summoned Maheshwari to attend investigations, who has however procured court protection from arrest.

Last month, Indian police visited Twitter’s offices in Delhi and Gurgaon after the firm labelled tweets by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s national spokesman as “manipulated media”.

Twitter responded by accusing the government of “intimidation tactics”.

Last week, India’s IT minister had his Twitter account briefly locked after he posted a video containing music that breached US copyright law.

Ravi Shankar Prasad called the move a “gross violation” and said it showed how his “calling out the high handedness and arbitrary actions of Twitter… clearly ruffled its feathers.”

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