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Centre backs action against social media platforms for suspending accounts without notice

Published on Mar 31, 2022 01:48 PM IST

It said this in an affidavit filed in the Delhi high court in response to petitions of two Twitter users against the suspension of their accounts

(HT PHOTO)

New Delhi: Action should be taken against social media intermediaries for not issuing prior notices before suspending accounts for alleged violations, the Centre said in an affidavit filed in the Delhi high court on Wednesday.

“…Otherwise, it would have dire consequences for a democratic nation…liberty and freedom of any individual cannot be waylaid or jettisoned in the slipstream of social and technological development,” the affidavit said. It added users can initiate proceedings against a social media platform for suspending accounts without notice.

The affidavit was filed in response to petitions of two Twitter users against the suspension of their accounts.

The Centre told Justice Yashwant Varma the intermediaries must respect the fundamental rights by giving proper notice before suspending accounts, failing which they should be held accountable for subjugating and supplanting rights of speech and expression. “In all other cases, the user needs to be given prior notice and a transparent process of natural justice including the right to approach the grievance officer of the platform and the suitable provision for appeals so as to ensure a transparent, fair process that meets all the principles of natural justice. Any complete de-platforming is against the spirit of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India that every citizen is entitled to,” the affidavit said.

The Centre said it expects the platforms to conform to the Constitution and observe the principles of natural justice. “The platforms must respect the fundamental rights of the citizens and should not take down the account itself or completely suspend the user account in all cases. That the taking down the whole information or the user account should be a last resort and the platform may at all times endeavour to guard the users’ fundamental rights by following the principles of natural justice and afford a reasonable time and opportunity to the user to explain his stand.”

The stance is contrary to the one taken in the case of suspension of senior advocate Sanjay Hegde’s account. The Centre then said the issue is between Hedge and Twitter and told the court it was not a necessary party to the proceedings.

The Centre said a platform may give prior notice to the user and seek removal of specific information or content that violates its policies or the Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2021. It said a social media account can be suspended or de-platformed only in cases such as those relating to sovereignty, security and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or pursuant to a court order or if the content is grossly unlawful such as sexual abuse material, etc.

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