New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday (March 28) arrested Twitter for failing to voluntarily take action against an account that allegedly posted objectionable content about a Hindu goddess, saying the microblogging platform did not care sensitivities of people from other regions and ethnicities.
A bench led by Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi, which was hearing a petition against allegedly hateful posts about Maa Kaali by user ‘AtheistRepublic’, has asked Twitter to explain how it is pledging to block accounts while noting that there were instances where certain individuals were blocked on the platform and commented that if such an incident had occurred in relation to another religion, the social media platform would have been more cautious and sensitive.
“That’s ultimately what people you feel sensitive to… Content, you’ll block them. You don’t care about other people’s sensitivities in other parts of the world, ethnicities. We dare to say that if these kinds of things were done in relation to another religion, you would be much more careful, more sensitive, ”said the bench also including Judge Navin Chawla.
Lead attorney Sidharth Luthra, appearing for US-based Twitter, said he removed the objectionable content in the present case and an FIR has been filed in relation to the posts.
He said Twitter “cannot block any individual” and cannot take action against allegedly objectionable content absent a court order.
“If that is the logic, then why did you block Mr. (Donald) Trump,” the court questioned, adding that Twitter’s prima facie position that it could not block the account was not “not entirely correct”.
The court said that since Twitter had not objected to the court’s earlier first facie opinion regarding the removal of allegedly objectionable content in this case, the social media platform should have taken action of its own initiative when other offensive material has been reported.
“Given that Respondent #3 (Twitter) has not challenged the court’s prima facie view as to the nature of the content, Respondent #3 should voluntarily remove, without waiting for the hearing today, the messages referred to by the petitioner as as early as December 9, 2021,” the court said.
“We may note that Respondent #3 has blocked the account of certain individuals from time to time. We order Respondent #3 to file with the court the policy and under what circumstances he resorted to such action,” the court added. as he noted the framework provided by the relevant rules on information technology for social media intermediaries.
Central government lawyer Harish Vaidyanathan said there is a procedure in place for blocking Twitter accounts against which complaints are received.
The court ordered the Center to review the content in the present case and decide whether action to block the account is necessary under the Information Technology Act.
The court further ordered Twitter, Central Government as well as AtheistRepublic to file their response to the petitioner and noted the Twitter user’s undertaking that in the meantime, he would not post any similar offensive content. .
He also asked AtheistRepublic to file in an affidavit details regarding his status, location, presence of any place of business and authorized representative in India. AtheistRepublic’s lawyer said his account cannot be blocked without an opportunity to be heard.
Petitioner Aditya Singh Deshwal said the Twitter user should be blocked for posting “ridiculous content against all religions” and being a repeat offender.
In October last year, the court observed that Twitter should respect the feelings of the general public as it does business for them and ordered it to remove some objectionable material relating to the Hindu goddess from its platform.
The petitioner had claimed that Maa Kaali was portrayed in a disgraceful and scandalous manner by AtheistRepublic and that such content seriously breached the Information Technology Rules 2021 (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Code of Ethics for Digital Media) and that the Failure to follow the rules would render Twitter lose its legal immunity under the Information Technology Act. The case will be heard on September 6.