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SC slams ‘irresponsible’ social media companies

Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and other internet giants face top court ire for not curbing circulation of ‘objectionable’ content

india Updated: Jul 28, 2018 10:19 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Social media,Facebook,Google
The court warned the social media giants that a fine of Rs5 lakh per day would be imposed on them if they failed to develop a foolproof mechanism to prevent circulation of sexual assault videos and child pornography through their platforms within a month. (Getty Images)

The Supreme Court on Friday pulled up social media platforms and search engines for being “irresponsible” and not taking sufficient steps to stop circulation of “objectionable materials” that is leading to lynching incidents across the country.

A bench of Justice Lokur and Justice UU Lalit also warned the social media giants that a fine of Rs5 lakh per day would be imposed on them if they failed to develop a foolproof mechanism to prevent circulation of sexual assault videos and child pornography through their platforms within a month.

“What type of attitude you are all adopting? There is so much objectionable material on the social media sites. People are being lynched across the country. People are dying at various places, but you (social media sites) seem to be not bothered. You are saying that as long as it does not happen to me, it is ok, when it happens to me, then we will look into it,” Justice MB Lokur told the panel of lawyers representing Facebook Ireland, Facebook India, Google India, Google Inc, Microsoft, WhatsApp and Yahoo.

The judge’s remarks come against the backdrop of rumours triggering lynching incidents across the country and were made during a hearing on a PIL filed by Non-Government Organisation (NGO) Prajwala seeking the top court’s intervention in stopping circulation of child pornography and sexual assault videos.

Appearing for the NGO, advocate Aparna Bhat said perpetrators of sexual assaults often recorded the crime and circulated the video through social media.

She argued that despite giving assurances, the social media firms had failed to stop circulation of such videos.

Bhat demonstrated in the court that except desktops, sexual assault videos and child pornography were easily accessible through laptops and smartphones.

“How can you people be so irresponsible? So much material is still available on the social media sites. But you don’t want to do anything because you don’t want to own any responsibility. So let people die you will not do anything,” remarked Justice Lokur.

Bhat said none of the companies had bothered to come out with a suitable mechanism, despite the recommendations made by the court-appointed committee in the case.

The lawyers of the companies argued that they were facing difficulties in complying with the panel’s directive due to technical difficulties. The court, however, threatened to impose a heavy fine on the companies following which the firms’ counsel gave an undertaking to comply with the court’s directive within 30 days

On May 19, the Supreme Court has slapped fine of ₹1 lakh each on internet giants like Google India, Google Inc, Facebook and WhatsApp for failing to file their replies on the steps taken by them to block videos of sexual offences on different social media sites.

First Published: Jul 27, 2018 22:29 IST