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Did outgoing PM's team hijack over a million Twitter followers?

Last updated on: May 21, 2014 13:47 IST

Pawan Duggal, an expert on cyber law, speaks to's Vicky Nanjappa about the legal ramifications of renaming the PMO's verified Twitter handle.

The outgoing prime minister’s official Twitter handle @PMOIndia, which was renamed @PMOIndiaArchive, is the cause of the latest controversy. 

@PMOIndia was a verified account by social networking and microblogging service Twitter.

“It is apparent that whoever was operating the account has surrendered the handle back to twitter and created a new one, with the old set of followers. Twitter is an intermediary under Section 2 of the IT Act and section 79 mandates that the intermediary exercises due diligence in matters pertaining to the accounts created on its service,” says Duggal.  

“Now a lot would depend on the request made by the PMO to Twitter to return the handle stating which officially belongs to the Prime Minister’s Office. Once such a request is made, Twitter would be duty-bound to restore the handle.”

“By changing the handle millions of followers automatically get hijacked. Even if the handle is back with the PMO, the old followers do not get transferred automatically. It’ll be a while before the followers return and the earlier reach is established,” added Duggal.

“The handle is the property of the PMO and is a computer resource the PMO is legally entitled to. The fact that Twitter had given it a verified status added to the authenticity of the handle. If any person dishonestly or fraudulently diminishes the value or the utility of the electronic information it would fall under the ambit of criminal penalty under Section 66 and 43 of the Information Technology Act. This Act states that if found guilty, the person could face up to 3 years in jail and a fine of Rs 5 lakh.”

“The trouble is that when a handle of such importance is created it cannot be a run-of-the mill operation. The handle should have been created under India’s Critical Information Infrastructure. There ought to be an official order with a nod from the Cabinet since the prime minister communicates to the people of India and the world through this handle,” said Duggal.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore