On Thursday, September 30, Hyderabad-based activist SQ Masood received an email from Twitter saying that the Cyber Crime Police Station, Hyderabad had flagged his tweet as it “violates India’s Information Technology Act.” Twitter informed Masood that he could challenge the claim of the police through a legal course. The objectionable tweet in question was a quote-tweet of a communal video which alleged that there is a conspiracy behind the fruit-selling business being “monopolised” by Muslims.
On September 1, a woman identified as Usha Nirmala had tweeted a communal video, which claimed that the fruit selling business was monopolised by the Muslim community. Though the openly communal video refrains from explicitly naming the Muslim community, it shows graphics and images of skull cap-wearing men and refers to them as “bhaijaan”. The hate video claims that Hindu vendors are made to incur loss as the “bhaijaans” sell fruit at lower prices, thus throwing Hindus out of business and monopolising the market. Ironically, this tweet by Usha Nirmala is still available on her timeline despite hundreds of people flagging it. It is unclear if Hyderabad police have written to Twitter to take down this tweet.
Taking objection to the hate-spreading video, Masood quote-retweeted Usha Nirmala’s original tweet, tagging Hyderabad Commissioner of Police, Anjani Kumar, to take action against the woman. Masood had written, “Pls take action against this women for sharing misleading, false & objectionable video messages. Such information creates panic among the public and can provoke religious sentiments of other community. Action under IPC and IT Act should be taken.” (sic)
Upon receiving the notice from Twitter over this, for merely flagging the incident, Masood said, “It is surprising that they are asking me to remove the tweet where I was bringing an offence to the notice of the police. Why can’t they ensure that the offender’s tweet is deleted. That tweet which is viral is still available on Twitter. If they delete the original tweet, that video would disappear from my account.”
Cyber Crime Police Station Assistant Commissioner of Police KVM Prasad said that they asked Masood to remove his tweet as his action would inadvertently spread the video.“Such content can spread to lakhs of people. Many people will share it which may lead to issues. He (Mr Masood) should complain to us directly,” The Hindu quoted the ACP as saying.
Meanwhile, Masood in a statement said, “This is arbitrary, and a misuse of the IT Act provisions by the Hyderabad police. It is their responsibility to take suo motu cognizance of the post as they have all surveillance mechanisms in place and infrastructure to monitor social media platforms. But they failed to take action against the user who tweeted misinformation and hate content.”
“Reporting post of the complainant is something which should be investigated by the Hyderabad Commissioner, as we don't know how many such posts of concerned citizens have been reported to Twitter by the Cyber Crime PS,” he added.