An India Today report suggests that Twitter India Managing Director Manish Maheshwari was interrogated by Delhi Police over BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra’s ‘Congress toolkit’ Tweet being tagged as “manipulated media”. A team of the Delhi Police had travelled to Bengaluru on May 31 to question Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari in connection with the case, the report said citing sources.
Reporting a similar update, ANI on Thursday Tweeted, “A senior-level team of Delhi Police’s Special Cell had gone to Bengaluru, Karnataka on May 31 to interrogate Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari regarding ‘Congress toolkit case’.”
A senior-level team of Delhi Police’s Special Cell had gone to Bengaluru, Karnataka on May 31 to interrogate Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari regarding ‘Congress toolkit case’: Sources— ANI (@ANI) June 17, 2021
Twitter India has been dodging the orders and legal responses sought by the government of India in certain issues lately by passing the buck on Twitter US- the parent company.
Government sources suggest that the Delhi Police’s probe in this matter is not only establishing a clearer picture of Twitter India’s links with the US-based parent company but also unearthing a “complex web of corporate veil to mislead Indian law-enforcing entities”.
Twitter MD not aware of other directors
Maheshwari reportedly told the Delhi Police that despite being the senior-most employee of Twitter India’s subsidiary Twitter Communications India Private Limited, he was not aware of the company’s directors.
Maheshwari, who is also known externally as the Managing Director (MD) of the company and claims so on his Twitter profile, said he derived his information about Twitter India’s hierarchical structure from the records maintained by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
The Delhi Police is now probing this shocking claim by the India Twitter head that, despite being the company’s most senior officer in the country, he has little information about his own team.
Maheshwari reports to Singapore based employee
During the interrogation, Maheshwari was also asked if he reports to someone else who is also an employee of TCIPL.
To this Maheshwari informed the Delhi Police that he reports to a Singapore-based Yu Sasamoto. Yu Sasamoto was appointed Vice President of Twitter for Japan, South Korea and Asia Pacific (JAPAC) on May 01. Sasamoto had succeded Maya Hari, who was elevated to a global role within the organisation as vice president of Global Strategy and Operations (GSO).
Guessing which office his “boss” is located at, Maheshwari old the Delhi Police team that “his boss [Sasamoto] is not an employee of TCIPL and he does not know the exact name of the legal entity in which his boss is employed, but his best guess was Twitter Asia-Pacific”.
Delhi Police, however, clarified, “Since Maheshwari accepted that he reports to an employee of Twitter Asia Pacific, his contention that he is not related to Twitter Inc is obviously not true.” According to reports, Yu Sasamoto works from Twitter’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore,
Questions on his designation and other employees
The Delhi Police also quizzed Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari about other employees of TCIPL.
Police also probed why Maheshari uses an email ID ending with @twitter and not @tcipl since he claims to not be an employee of Twitter Inc.
When asked why he refers to himself as the MD of Twitter India despite not being an employee of Twitter Inc, sources say he responded by saying that it is his ‘market-facing’ designation among advertisers. He also informed that this is as per common market practice in Indian business circles.
The government is also said to be investigating how Maheshwari claims that “it is common business practice to call the most senior person in-charge of a business entity in India to be referred to as the Managing Director (MD)”.
Maheshwari unsure over who owns TCIPL
According to sources, Maheshwari was unable to provide concrete and satisfactory answers over Twitter Inc’s link with its subsidiary TCIPL. He further claimed that it “could” be a subsidiary of Twitter Asia-Pacific or some other legal entity.
However, Maheshwari revealed that one of the others directors of TCIPL is one Mr Winston Foo, who is an employee of Twitter Asia Pacific in Singapore.
“May have received complaints”
Maheshwari was also asked if he could make a categoric statement that none of the persons engaged/employed by TCIPL received a single complaint from the public regarding questionable content posted on Twitter.
Giving a loose answer to the aforementioned questioned, Maheshwari said while he could not say for sure, but some employees “may” have received content-related complaints. They “may” have directed these complaints either to the website, help.Twitter.com, or the report section in the Twitter App, informed Maheshwari.
The Delhi Police is treating Maheshwari’s statement as an admission that TCIPL employees do get and accept complaints pertaining to content on Twitter and forward the same to Twitter Inc, thus admitting their link with the US-based parent company.
Who owns the shares?
Interestingly, the Delhi Police team has also found out that out of a total of 10,000 shares of TCIPL, 9,999 are owned by Twitter International Company (TIC) while Twitter Netherlands owns the remaining one share.
A senior government official said, “The final inference is that TCIPL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Twitter International and that the “entire façade of being different entities is to make a mockery of Indian law”.
Delhi police and Twitter India
Twitter had flagged a Tweet made by BJP leader Sambit Patra curtailing content that is under investigation. Delhi police had then served the social media giant a notice to declare the ‘information’ they might possess which prompted them to flag the content as ‘manipulative’ as it might aid the ongoing investigation.
However, Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari had evaded the investigation claiming he was just a sales head.
Strategy to evade Indian law?
Given that Twitter India has consistently refused to comply with the new IT rules of India, the evasive replies give by the Twitter MD shows that the company has decided evading the Indian law is the best strategy to combat the Modi government. It is not possible that a person with the designation of Managing Director in a company will not know other employees and the directors of the company. It is not possible that he won’t know who owns his company. He is clearly refusing to give clear answers to police.
Twitter India has been trying to establish that it has no links with Twitter Inc, claiming itself to be just a marketing office. They had made that claim to its response to NCPCR on the probe on the availability of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) on Twitter. Twitter India wants to claim they are not responsible for the content published on the platform, saying only Twitter Inc is responsible for the same. With this claim, they are trying to avoid complying with the new IT Rules completely. They are hoping that if they can prove that they have no links with Twitter Inc, they won’t have to follow the due diligence and appoint the compliance and grievance redressal officers as required under the rules.
However, both Delhi Police and NCPCR have found that among the 10,000 shares of Twitter India, 9,999 of them are owned by Twitter Inc. Moreover, among the three director of Twitter India, two are employees of Twitter Inc.
As a result of not complying with the IT Rules, Twitter has already lost the intermediary status in India, which means it will now be held responsible for content published on the platform. And to avoid prosecution arising out of this change of status, Twitter India is trying to say it is not related Twitter Inc, and only Twitter Inc is responsible for the content. This will mean that the Indian govt will not be able to enforce the IT Rules on the company, as it will not be possible take action against a company and the officials who are not based in India.