NEW DELHI: Amidst serious legal and regulatory troubles in India, American micro-blogging giant Twitter has transferred its country director for India, Manish Maheshwari, to San Francisco in a new role and has done away with the post, forming a “leadership council” to run its operations in the country.
Senior functionaries – Kanika Mittal and Neha Sharma Katyal – will continue to lead the India sales roles and now report to Yu Sasamoto, who is the vice-president for the company’s Japan, South Korea and Asia-Pacific (JAPAC) region.
Maheshwari, who was leading Twitter’s India operations over the past two years, will now be in-charge of Twitter’s “Revenue Strategy and Operations” for new markets worldwide. This caps a tumultuous tenure in the country where he saw multiple FIRs and police cases being filed against him over a variety of legal issues following the rollout of new IT Rules.
It’s not yet clear whether Maheshwari can simply walk out of the country to take up the new assignment, or whether he would first need to tackle the legal and IPC cases where he has been named as a party/accused along with Twitter.
Asked about the issue, Twitter India refused comment.
Twitter has decided that instead of a country director, a leadership council will guide its operations in India. This council is likely to have personnel such as Mittal (responsible for leading Twitter’s business in north and east India) and Katyal (who heads the western and southern region businesses).
Amongst other senior functionaries, Krishna Iyer – who is the head of channel sales for Twitter India – will now report to global business partners and Mitchell Kreuch, who leads APAC “agency development” function. He is also a likely member of the leadership council.
“Instead of a single country director, our wonderful India leadership council will guide and support you all as a team moving forward,” a senior Twitter official said in a communication to India team members, adding that the company will “continue to invest in India as a strategic, high-growth market for our company.”
Twitter has been in the middle of a massive political slug-fest in India over the past few months, first being accused by the ruling BJP and the NDA government of trying to “dictate” its terms while using “opaque policies” to “arbitrarily” suspend user accounts and delete tweets. This related to a variety of issues, such as Twitter’s reluctance to take down around 1,400 accounts linked to the farmers protests and its tagging as “manipulated media” some of the content put out by top BJP members.
And as it was attacked over its slow pace in appointing statutory officers in India despite the mandate under the new IT Rules, Twitter had also taken on the government when – in a surprisingly scathing attack – it accused the government of engaging in a “dangerous overreach that is inconsistent with open, democratic principles”. In a statement on May 27, Twitter alleged that it had been forced to “withhold” (block in India) portions of “legitimate free speech” over fears around the safety of its employees and threats of financial penalties.
Recently, however, it seemed to have made peace with the government but now has been accused by opposition Congress and its top leader Rahul Gandhi of bias and interference in the country’s political processes, for blocking the accounts of many functionaries of the party. Twitter said it had taken the action after Congress and its leaders had shared pictures (in tweets) of the family of a nine-year-old victim who is alleged to have been raped and murdered in Delhi.
The matter has again brought the company and the way it moderates content to the fore. The company has also appointed officers in India to answer user queries related to the content and coordinate with the government.
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