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Twitter accused of hosting child pornography in India

The government is accused of trying to control social media platforms to save its dwindling popularity
Twitter accused of hosting child pornography in India
A woman shows the login page of Tooter, a social network modeled on the popular Twitter, on her mobile phone in Bangalore on Nov. 30, 2020. (Photo: Manjunath Kiran/AFP)
Published: June 30, 2021 10:41 AM GMT

A confrontation between the microblogging site Twitter and the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is raging on multiple fronts, with the social media giant facing a new allegation of allowing child pornography on its platform.

In the latest case, Delhi police have registered a case against Twitter for allegedly displaying child pornography and sexual abuse content.

Chinmoy Biswal, spokesman for Delhi police, said its Cyber Crime Cell acted on a complaint from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, a federal government watchdog.

Commission officials said they found at least 31 websites on the dark web with “highly obscene content.”

Such material was also found to be available on Twitter, where many links are within the reach of users and they can obtain such material through different handles, the complaint said.

"Twitter does not report such cases to the authorities in India, which is mandatory” under Indian laws.

We have been at the forefront of responding to the evolving challenge of preventing the exploitation of children on the internet

In a statement, Twitter, however, said it has a zero-tolerance policy towards child sexual exploitation and that it has "a proactive approach in combating sexual exploitation of minors on our service.”

"We have been at the forefront of responding to the evolving challenge of preventing the exploitation of children on the internet and will continue to aggressively fight online child sexual abuse as well as invest in the technology and tools that are essential to staying ahead of this issue.”

The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which runs the government in New Delhi and several Indian states, has been accusing social media platforms of spreading lies and fake news, particularly against the BJP and its leaders.

In fact, there are multiple cases now filed against Twitter in India by various BJP-led state governments.

The tussle with the government began last year when Twitter was asked to suspend certain accounts that criticized the government over a farmers’ protest in New Delhi. Twitter temporarily suspended some accounts but revived them saying there was no justification in their continued suspension, earning the government's displeasure.

The government was unhappy this year when social media including Twitter were filled with news of an administrative collapse, particularly in New Delhi in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19, which overwhelmed hospital facilities and government provisions.

The government and the BJP wanted to control social media to tackle their dwindling popularity, but social media platforms were reluctant to choke the freedom to criticize government inefficiency.

Rights groups have accused the Modi government of trying to control freedom of expression, which they say threatens to violate the democratic rights of citizens.

In one of several cases, Twitter was accused of displaying a wrong map of India which did not include the Jammu and Kashmir region, which India considers an integral part of its territory. Twitter later deleted the post that carried the wrong map.

Uttar Pradesh police under Hindu monk turned politician Yogi Adityanath issued a notice to Twitter’s India head Manish Maheshwari on June 17 to report to a local police station within seven days of receiving the notice.

A parliamentary standing committee has sought an explanation from Twitter over blocking the accounts of federal Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and committee chairman Shashi Tharoor.

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