The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the central government and various social media organisations on a plea seeking immediate action through notified designated officers for removal of fake news and hate speech being circulated through social media platforms.
Senior leader KN Govindacharya, through Advocate Virag Gupta, has moved the plea before the High Court accusing various social media platforms of misusing the idea of free speech and not complying with Indian laws which results in divisive society and riots like situation.
After hearing the submission by Gupta, the Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Harishankar sought response from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology along with social media giant Google India, Facebook India and Twitter India on the plea and slated the matter for April 13.
The plea states that as per Delhi Police, social media platforms have become a haven for hate speech regarding which there is no clear mechanism to enforce justice. The situation is akin to Shaheen Bagh, wherein everybody agrees that there exists a right to protest, but surely such right cannot be exercised on a public road. Similarly, the social media platforms cannot become a tool for rioting, even as they claim freedom of speech and expression, the plea mentions.
It further alleges that on many occasions, social media companies have censored or taken down the content against which many users have grievances, but they are left with no remedy to approach an appropriate authority. Similarly, there is hateful content that is not taken down, which in turn causes more crimes and leaves everyone hapless. Such objectionable content is a big source of revenue for social media organisations, but the same is manipulated to evade the taxes.
The plea prayed that the Centre is supposed to contact a designated officer of intermediaries as per the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009; Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009; and Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguard for Monitoring and Collecting Traffic Data or Information) Rules, 2009.
For unlawful interception, a user has a right to sue the responsible persons, including the designated officer of the intermediaries for their failure to safely keep users' data as well as arbitrarily censoring content on social media. However, social media companies and the government have not notified the details of designated officers. It is only when the formal presence of a designated officer of intermediaries in India is notified, the members of the public will be able to meaningfully exercise their Fundamental Right of Right to Life and Access of Justice, plea stated.
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