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"We Are A Search Engine Not A Social Media Intermediary": Google Claims Protection Against IT Rules 2021 Before Delhi High Court

Shreya Agarwal
2 Jun 2021 6:10 AM GMT
We Are A Search Engine Not A Social Media Intermediary: Google Claims Protection Against IT Rules 2021 Before Delhi High Court
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Google LLC today moved the Delhi High Court seeking interim protection against its declaration as a "Social Media Intermediary" (SMI) under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021 (IT Rules 2021). The plea was being heard by a division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh.Google moved Court in an appeal against a single...

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Google LLC today moved the Delhi High Court seeking interim protection against its declaration as a "Social Media Intermediary" (SMI) under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021 (IT Rules 2021). The plea was being heard by a division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh.

Google moved Court in an appeal against a single judge bench order of the court which had directed it to remove globally remove content which was flagged as "objectionable" by a female petitioner, for being "offensive" and having been taken from her social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram, and circulated without her consent.

Google said that while it had no issues against the directions issued in respect of this particular petitioner, it was aggrieved by the blanket, "template directions" issued by single judge.

Vide the order of the single judge, Google was classified as a "Social Media Intermediary" under the IT Rules, 2021 - which in the present case were conflated with the previous 2009 Rules - and was directed to remove the post, and such other flagged posts, globally, within 24 hours. Salve pressed that they wanted interim protection against any "coercive action" which may be taken against their failure to remove such posts as they aren't an SMI in the first place.

Salve primarily submitted that, "Firstly, we are a search engine and not a Social Media Intermediary so we are not covered under the definition of Significant Social Media Intermediary in the IT Rules, 2021."

He further argued that, "Secondly, some content may be offensive in Indian law but not offensive outside India, so a blanket order to remove the content globally can't be issued. Thirdly, template directions have been issued by a Single Judge. This will set a very bad precedent. A very pin pointed complaint was made, if someone had come to us we would've dealt with it. The Ld. Judge has conflated the 2009 Rules also."

The order being challenged by Google was passed by a single judge bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani of the Delhi High Court in a case where the petitioner had alleged that her photographs posted on her private social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram were taken without her knowledge or consent and were unlawfully posted on a pornographic website.

It was the petitioner's case that despite her privacy settings being activated, such photos were taken. Therefore, it was submitted that such conduct was punishable under S.67 of the IT Act, and falling within the meaning of mischief under the IPC and the IT Act.

The bench had directed that "for an order directing the removal or access disablement of offending content is to be effective even within India, a search engine must block the search results throughout the world since no purpose would be served by issuing such an order if it has no realistic prospect of preventing irreparable harm to a litigant."

[Google LLC v X & Ors]

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