SC notice on plea alleging Twitter is ‘sympathetic to terrorist groups’

Petitioner accuses platforms like Twitter of promoting and circulating prohibited content and hate messages

Updated - February 12, 2021 02:54 pm IST

Published - February 12, 2021 01:02 pm IST - New Delhi

A view of Supreme Court. File Photo.

A view of Supreme Court. File Photo.

The Supreme Court on Friday decided to examine a plea that says social media platform Twitter is “sympathetic to terrorist groups”.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde issued notice to the government and Twitter Communications India Private Limited on a petition by Vinit Goenka, Member of the Governing Council of CRIS, Ministry of Railways.

Also Read | Indian laws must be followed: Government to Twitter

Mr. Goenka accused platforms like Twitter of promoting and circulating prohibited content and hate messages. He said there was no mechanism or law to deal with the problem.

“Respondent 4 (Twitter) is sympathetic to terrorist groups... Global terror groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda and Indian Mujahideen use the platform of Respondent 4 (Twitter) and other social networking platforms to circulate hate speeches because it helps them avoid detection,” the petition, filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, contended.

An additional affidavit filed by Mr. Goenka on February 8 listed a series of recent incidents to buttress his case.

He referred to how the Ministry of Home Affairs had, on February 1, directed Twitter to block 250 handles “promoting fake and provocative content”.

Mr. Goenka said Delhi Special Commissioner of Police (Intelligence) had made a statement that 300 Twitter handles were generated from Pakistan between January 13 and January 18 to organise the tractor rally to disrupt the Republic Day celebrations. Twitter “did not care to censor” these handles, the petition alleged.

He said Twitter had deliberately blocked the handle of Home Minister Amit Shah.

Mr. Goenka alleged that Mahima Kaul, Head Public Policy of Twitter, had posted “undignified, vulgar and immodest tweets on February 14, 2014 against Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.

Explained | Why has the Centre issued a notice to Twitter, and what are the laws governing the cyber world?

‘Law needed’

The petition said a mechanism or law needed to be put in place for social media accounts in order “to stop the hatred, fake, investigative and other news which are contrary to the law”.

It said 10% each of the 35 million Twitter handles and 350 million Facebook accounts in India were bogus.

Hundreds of fake Twitter handles and Facebook accounts used the names, of constitutional authorities and eminent citizens. Fake news was the root cause of many riots, including the recent riots in Delhi. Political parties and candidates used fake social media accounts for self-promotion and image building and to tarnish rivals, the petition said.

Also Read | The Indian Twitter rival staging a Koo

“Anti-national tweets should not just be deleted, but such accounts should be discontinued,” it stated.

They should used as proof that people have indulged in anti-national activities in India or abroad.

Advertisement fees collected by Twitter for such anti-India, promoted tweets should be accounted for and government should levy heavy fines.

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