Delhi Police interrogated Alt News co-founder and self-styled fact-checker Mohammed Zubair recently in connection with a case of online harassment and ‘doxxing’ a minor girl child on Twitter. “Dox” is an informal verb that implies “to search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the internet, typically with malicious intent”.
Sources in Delhi Police say Mohammed Zubair was summoned for questioning on 13 May in a case of alleged harassment. The police questioned Zubair based on a complaint filed by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
On 7 August 2020, Mohammed Zubair got into a tiff with Twitter user Jagdish Singh (handle @JSINGH2252). The Alt News co-founder dragged a minor girl seen in the profile picture of the opponent in the debate. She happens to be Singh’s granddaughter.
“Hello Jagdish Singh,” Mohammed Zubair said, “Does your cute grand daughter know about your part time job of abusing people on social media? I suggest you to change your profile pic.” And this was one of his minor offences. Sirf News is withholding the tweets that gave away personal information of the minor girl.
Following the disclosure of particulars of the minor girl by Mohammed Zubair, some Islamists allegedly issued the threat of rape to the girl. While other Twitter users slammed the Alt News co-founder, police action had to follow as well.
A Twitter user tagged National Commission for Women, complaining about the ‘predatory’ behaviour of Mohammed Zubair. The co-founder of Alt News tried to justify his act of doxxing.
The Child Rights Commission took cognisance of the matter and initiated action against Mohammed Zubair who tweets from his verified handle @zoo_bear.
NCPCR chief Priyank Kanoongo had informed Twitter India and the law enforcement agency concerned of the tweet and had asked to take appropriate action. Two other Twitter users, with usernames de_real_mask and syedsarwar20, had been named in the FIRs, the NCPCR chairperson had confirmed in September 2020.
Two FIRs were registered against Mohammed Zubair for online harassment of a minor girl while arguing with a Twitter user. In the first FIR filed by Delhi Police, the stringent Pocso Act was not added, but it was in the second one lodged in Chhattisgarh, along with the relevant Sections of the IPC and IT Act.
Raipur Superintendent of Police Ajay Yadav had said in September 2020 that, prima facie, there were some comments that could be classified as harassment. “We have registered the FIR against the three Twitter handles but investigation work is still going on,” he had said.
Zubair had called the complaint “absolutely frivolous”. “I will be responding to it legally,” he told a newspaper.
Alt News had released a statement in support of Mohammed Zubair. It said that the first information report against him was an attempt to hound him through the “misuse of legal apparatus”.
The Chhattisgarh High Court granted interim protection to Mohammed Zubair while hearing his plea to quash the FIR filed against him under IPC Section 509B, IT Act section 67 and Pocso Act. But now Delhi Police has taken up the matter.