The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked the Delhi Police to register FIR against Twitter for providing it false information. The Child Rights Commission has asked the police to book Twitter Communications India Private Limited under section 199 of the Indian Penal Code for making false statement in an enquiry by the Commission. The NCPCR also has requested the IT ministry to ensure that access to the microblogging platform is suspended for children till it becomes safe for children.
NCPCR has asked Delhi Police to book Twitter India for lying to it that the company is not related to Twitter Inc, the USA based company that runs the social media platform. The case relates to NCPCR’s crackdown on Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) available on online platforms. Last year, the Commission had issued notices to companies like Google, Twitter, WhatsApp, Apple India etc to know about steps taken by them to remove and prevent CSAM on their platforms.
The NCPCR had received several complaints on availability of such materials on the platforms, and had also cited a study that said that CSAM had gone up by 95%. In the notice issued to Google and Apple, NCPCR had said that its enquiry has found that pornographic materials are accessible their app stores. To WhatsApp, it had said that there are numerous encrypted WhatsApp groups that share Child Sexual Abuse Material.
To Twitter, it had said that as Twitter allows child above 13 years of age to join the platform, it can’t allow pornographic material on the platform. NCPCR also had said that links to WhatsApp groups with CSAM were also being shared on Twitter.
NCPCR had said that the tech companies will have to comply with the rules to remove CSAM as per relevant sections of the POCSO act.
According to NCPCR Charman Priyank Kanoongo, while responding the notice, Twitter Communications India Pvt Ltd told NCPCR that they are not responsible for content shared on Twitter, and it is the responsibility of the American parent company. They had claimed that they have no relation with Twitter Inc.
But when NCPCR studied the background of Twitter Communications India, they found that the company has issued 10,000 shares, and 9,999 of them are owned by Twitter Inc. They also found that 2 of the three directors on the board of Twitter Communications India are employees of Twitter Inc.
This means, Twitter Communications India is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Twitter Inc, and the Indian company lied to NCPCR by saying that they are not related, which is a violation of laws. It may be noted that NCPCR is a statutory body established by an Act of the Parliament of India, and therefore making false statements to it is an offence.
Among the three directors of Twitter India, Winston Foo is the Regional Controller of Twitter Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, the Asia Pacific headquarters of Twitter located in Singapore, and Sean Edgett is General Counsel at Twitter. The third director Anoop Ashok is an independent director.
Priyank Kanoongo also said that Twitter has links to WhatsApp groups that share Child Sexual Abuse Material. Similarly, toolkits for dark web are also available on Twitter, which makes accessing CSAM easier. He also mentioned the case of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who had doxed a minor girl, after which people had issued rape threats to the girl.
He said that Twitter does not have a safe environment for children, where paedophiles and people who threat children with sexual abuse are present, where toolkits for accessing dangerous areas of dark web are available, and that’s why it is not safe for children to be on the platform. He said that the commission had found that Twitter has violated sections 11, 15, 19 of the POCSO Act, apart from violating section 199 of IPC by lying to the enquiry.
For these reasons, the NCPCR has asked the Delhi police to file an FIR against Twitter India, and inform the commission about the same. Along with that, the commission has also written to the IT ministry of the union govt to stop the access of children to the platform and block all the accounts of the Children until Twitter does not become a safe place for children and until it starts reporting incidents of sexual abuse of children to the authorities.