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Videos on Ramdev: Delete defamatory content, HC tells social media firms

PUBLISHED ON OCT 23, 2019 11:42 PM IST

New Delhi

The Delhi high court on Wednesday directed Facebook, Google and Twitter to remove and block all videos, weblinks and web addresses containing potentially defamatory allegations against yoga guru, Baba Ramdev.

“The race between technology and the law could be termed as a hare and tortoise race--as technology gallops, the law tries to keep pace,” the court remarked.

Justice Pratibha M Singh said mere “geoblocking,” or disabling access to defamatory content to viewers from India, as agreed to by the social media platforms, would not be sufficient as users residing in the country can gain access to it by other means.

“If geoblocking alone is permitted in respect of the entire content, there cannot be any dispute that the offending information will still reside in the global platforms of the defendants and would be accessible from India, not only through VPN {virtual private network} and other mechanisms, but also by accessing the international websites of these platforms.

“It is not unknown that the Canadian, European and American websites of Google, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter can be accessed in India through various technological means. This would thus result in partial disabling and partial removal,” the judge said in a 76-page judgment.

The court also said that since the unlawful act, in a case of content being uploaded from India, is committed within India, a global injunction shall operate in respect of such content.

“In case of uploads which take place from outside India, the unlawful act would be the dissemination of such content in India, and thus in those cases, the platforms may resort to geo-blocking,” the court said.

Ramdev had moved the court seeking a permanent injunction against Facebook, Google, its subsidiary Youtube, and Twitter, alleging that defamatory remarks and information including videos based on a book, Godman to Tycoon-the Untold Story of Baba Ramdev, were being circulated over the social media platforms.

Reacting to the judgment, Google said, “Our teams are reviewing the court order.” Facebook could not be reached for a comment. Twitter did not have any comment to offer (do you mean declined to comment).

The court said that the provisions of the Information Technology law have to be interpreted in a manner so as to ensure judicial orders are effective and “not toothless”.

“The defendants are directed to take down, remove, block, restrict/disable access, on a global basis, to all such videos/ weblinks/URLs in the list annexed to the plaint, which have been uploaded from IP addresses within India.

“Insofar as the URLs/links in the list annexed to the plaint which were uploaded from outside India are concerned, the defendants are directed to block access and disable them from being viewed in the Indian domain and ensure that users in India are unable to access the same,” the court said in its judgment.

The court issued the direction after the social media platforms said that while they had no objection to blocking the URLs and disabling them, insofar as access in India is concerned, they were opposed to removal/blocking/disabling the content on a global basis.

Justice Singh also said that a perusal of a video and transcript gave an impression that Ramdev “has been involved in various murders, financial irregularities, misuse of animal parts, etc” and hence the “defamatory nature of the video cannot be disputed”.

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