SC sends notice to Twitter, Centre on regulating 'fake and seditious' content
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde issued a notice on the petition.
The Supreme Court on Friday sought responses from Twitter India and Centre on a petition demanding regulation of "fake and seditious" content and advertisements circulated on social media platforms from unverified accounts.
The petition filed by Delhi Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) unit’s IT and Social Media Cell chief Vinit Goenka cited the recent order of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued on February 1 directing Twitter to block more than 250 accounts found to promote fake and provocative content.
Goenka accused Twitter of creating hatred in society by circulating, publishing, and promoting seditious contents and sought a mechanism to deal with such content.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde issued a notice on the petition and tagged it with two similar petitions pending in Court on the issue of regulating content on social media. In October 2020, the Court issued a notice on a petition by two law students demanding profile verification of social media accounts to weed out illicit and graphic content uploaded on social media.
Appearing for Goenka, advocate Ashwini Dubey informed the Court that an urgent need had arisen for the Court to interfere as no law is in place to prevent the circulation of anti-national content and posts that spread hatred based on fake news.
“In the absence of any law to deal with offensive and hate messages, platforms like Twitter are knowingly promoting the messages which are against the law of the land and therefore, the Respondent No.4 (Twitter) needs to explain for circulating and promoting the prohibited content,” the petitioner said.
With notices been issued, responses have to be filed to the petition by Twitter and the two Central departments – Ministry of Law and Justice, and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
At present, Twitter enjoys a considerable presence in India having close to 3.5 million accounts. According to the petition, 10 per cent of these handles are fake with some of them bearing names and profiles of top constitutional functionaries in the country that tends to mislead the common man.
“Fake accounts are used to promote casteism, communalism, regionalism, linguism,” the petition stated, citing the recent trend of separatist organisations like Pakistan-based ISI, Indian Mujahideen using Twitter to create fake IDs and spread hatred among communities through seditious, hate-filled, and divisive content.
In 2019, Twitter suspended the account of a pro-Khalistani activist Guru Patvant Singh Pannun after the Sikh community complained that he was radicalizing youth.
“The aforesaid act shows that Respondent 4 (Twitter) is sympathetic to terrorist groups. There is no law/mechanism which prohibits Respondent 4 from doing aforesaid illegal acts, and Respondent 4 does not have its own mechanism,” Goenka stated in his petition.