Twitter in India faces criminal charges for Kashmir map ‘treason’

Twitter is facing criminal charges in India after the site published a map that incorrectly showed the turbulent Indian region of Kashmir as a separate country.

On Monday night a report was filed to police in the state of Uttar Pradesh against Twitter’s head in India, Manish Maheshwari, calling the publication of the distorted map “an act of treason”.

The error was a sensitive one. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been rocked by a separatist insurgency fighting for independence from India for decades. In August 2019, the Indian government unilaterally stripped the region of its semi-autonomous powers, to the anger of many living in the state.

After the map error was flagged by a user, it prompted a backlash against Twitter, which then quietly removed the map from its “tweep life” section.

Nonetheless, the error has further heightened tensions between Twitter and Indian authorities, which are engaged in a standoff on multiple fronts.

This was the second time in less than a month that Twitter’s head in India has had a police case filed against him in Uttar Pradesh. Last week, Maheshwari was summoned by police over activity on Twitter relating to the alleged attack of a Muslim man in the state.

High profile Indian journalists and political leaders who had tweeted about the attack were named in the police report, which accused Twitter of publishing posts that provoked “communal sentiments”.

Maheshwari has not tweeted about the attack himself and a state high court granted him protection from arrest in the case, but Uttar Pradesh police are now challenging the order in the supreme court.

India’s central government, led by Narendra Modi, has repeatedly ordered Twitter to remove tweets that are critical of government actions and policies. Twitter attracted the ire of ministers by refusing to comply with many of the demands for the removal of tweets and in May, police visited Twitter’s India headquarters in the capital, Delhi, to serve the company a legal notice.

Along with other social media sites and messaging apps, Twitter has also been accused of not fully complying with new rules passed by the government that heavily increase state regulation and control over social media sites.

Twitter could not be reached for comment regarding the furore over the incorrect map. However, in a statement last month, Twitter said that the harassment of its employees in India and the introduction of new IT laws had left the company “concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression”.

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