Twitter Shares Soar Following Takeover Rumours; Is Google A Potential Buyer?
Twitter Shares Soar Following Takeover Rumours; Is Google A Potential Buyer?Reuters file

Bengaluru police has eased their pressure on Twitter after the microblogging site extended its co-operation in the cyber-terror investigation of ISIS propagandist Mehdi Masroor Biswas.

Police had on Monday considered the idea of slapping more cases against Mehdi, specifically sections 354 and 153 of the IPC, dealing with outraging the modesty of women and provocation to cause rioting. The former celebrated atrocities against Kurdish women in some of his tweets.

The police however dropped this idea later in the day, saying that additional charges could be contemplated during the course of the investigation and at the time of filing a chargesheet.

Meanwhile, the police were encouraged by the assistance provided by Twitter, to whom they issued a notice on Sunday. "Twitter has said its India head will meet us soon. We have permitted that. They have said they will cooperate with us in the investigation," DCP (Crime) Abhishek Goyal told The Economic Times (ET).

The investigating authorities will use data provided by Twitter to ascertain who Mehdi was in touch with in India and abroad, and what the nature of his contact was. "Whether he had Indian connections or if he was merely retweeting posts made by others, I'm not able to confirm either way. There is so much data that we need to analyse," MN Reddi, the city police commissioner said.

Criminal law experts ET said that the other two charges against Mehdi - Sec 125 of IPC and Sec 18 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act - may not make a strong case for the prosecution. It was probably the reason police toyed with the idea of new charges on Monday.

"Such a case is the first-of-its-kind for us, in the sense that Twitter is the place of offence, and there are many complexities in the virtual world. We won't know who is sending the information, who created the handle or where they are from. It is only a coincidence that @ ShamiWitness was being run in Bengaluru, but everything about it was related to West Asia," Reddi told ET.

"The investigation has not reached that level yet. But even if no Indian was incited, Section 125 of the IPC that we have invoked holds good," he said.

Meanwhile, Mehdi was allowed to speak to his parents over telephone on Monday afternoon. His parents are expected to arrive in Bengaluru from their home in Kaikhali, Kolkata. Even as they have claimed Biswas' innocence, Twitter is abuzz with a campaign to defend him with the trending hashtag #FreeShamiWitness.

Reddi was forced to issue a statement after a tweet by a parody twitter handle -ISIS State Media (@ISIS_Med) - warned that Bengaluru would face a hostage situation similar to the one in Sydney.

"There is no such threat perception for the city...the handle is actually a parody of ISIS and not a confirmed handle. Police are however on the alert and all information and inputs received will be treated with appropriate importance. Public are informed that there is absolutely no threat perception and no need to panic," Reddi said.