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"Hosting Abusive & Defamatory Content Against Govt., Judiciary, Executive": Plea in MP HC Against Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter

Sparsh Upadhyay
19 Jan 2021 1:25 PM GMT
Hosting Abusive & Defamatory Content Against Govt., Judiciary, Executive: Plea in MP HC Against Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter
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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been moved before the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Indore Bench) against Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter for allegedly displaying/hosting obscene, unregulated, uncertified, sexually explicit, and legally restricted content. The petition has been filed by an NGO named Maatr Foundation, through advocates Amay Bajaj, Ashi Vaidya,...

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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been moved before the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Indore Bench) against Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter for allegedly displaying/hosting obscene, unregulated, uncertified, sexually explicit, and legally restricted content.

The petition has been filed by an NGO named Maatr Foundation, through advocates Amay Bajaj, Ashi Vaidya, Mansi Dubey, Paritosh Shrivastava and Purvi Khandelwal.

The Plea states that the above-named social media platforms are displaying content which consists of heinous acts of nudity, inciting communal hatred, child abuse, betting, and other such unlawful activities.

It has been alleged in the plea that due to absence of any regulatory authority/guidelines/special laws to control their content in India, these platforms are violating various Indian laws relating to women, children, contract, e-commerce, intellectual property rights, betting, terrorism, hatred and other offences.

Importantly, the plea states,

"These platforms are not only hosting content which is abusing and defaming the government of India but also the Judiciary, the Executive bodies of India, the freedom fighters, the Defense Forces of India as well as blasphemous content about several religions and gods and goddesses in India. These platforms are a base of spreading hate crimes and communal hatred amongst society."

"They are also breaching the privacy of users and selling their personal data as well as other sensitive information to their subsidiary companies and in open market. This is violative of the fundamental right to privacy", the plea further alleges.

Lastly, the plea states that due to non-interference of government, these platforms are spreading communal hatred, causing defamation to the government of India, the Judiciary, the Executive bodies of India, the freedom fighters, the Defence Forces of India as well as giving space to blasphemous content about several religions and gods and goddesses in India.

"It is not only creating a negative image of India globally but also creating an atmosphere of havoc in the country", the plea asserts.

Interestingly, the plea also seeks an order for WhatsApp to take down its new privacy policy which is breaching the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution of India to its citizens.

Relief Prayed for

  • Guidelines in order to regulate the content broadcast by Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter on their online platforms, or in alternative;
  • Direction to Union of Indai to frame legal provisions/guidelines in order to regulate the content broadcast by Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter on their online platforms, and;
  • Direction to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter to remove all such content from their websites as well as internet with immediate effect.

In related news, a writ petition was filed in the Delhi High Court challenging the new Privacy Policy introduced by instant messaging app, Whatsapp, as being violative of the citizens' Right to Privacy and threatening the National Security of India.

While hearing this plea, yesterday the Delhi HC observed that WhatsApp is a 'private app' and that the users voluntarily use the app even though they have the option to not use it.

The single judge bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva of the Delhi High Court asked the petitioner, Adv Chaitanya Rohilla who has challenged Whatsapp's updated privacy policy, "What is your grievance? It's a private app, don't join it."

Further, it may be noted that a Writ Petition has been filed in the Supreme Court against the new and updated privacy of WhatsApp, a messaging application owned by Facebook.

The Petition filed by Confederation of All India Traders seeks issuance direction to Union Government to take all necessary steps / actions to safeguard and secure the privacy of citizens and national security by ensuring that mobile application providers such as WhatsApp and other internet based messaging services do not compromise, share and/or exploit the information and data including messages, audio, video and other information of users in any manner whatsoever.

It may also be noted that WhatsApp updated its privacy policy on January 4, 2021 and made it compulsory for its users to accept its terms and conditions, failing which the accounts and services would be terminated after February 8, 2021 for the respective user.

Later, following public outcry, WhatsApp informed that it was pushing back the new privacy policy and assured users that no accounts will be suspended on February 8.

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