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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Social media companies can’t escape responsibility for spread of fake news: Madras HC

A division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee made it clear that after providing a platform for people to post their views and share messages, these companies cannot abdicate their responsibility for the spread of incorrect and defamatory information or fake news.

tamil-nadu Updated: Sep 20, 2019 19:21 IST
MC Rajan
MC Rajan
Hindustan Times,
A file photo of Madras high court. (Photo: PTI)
A file photo of Madras high court. (Photo: PTI)
         

Social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, could not escape responsibility for the spread of fake news as well as hate messages spread and shared on their platforms, the Madras high court observed on Friday.

A division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee made it clear that after providing a platform for people to post their views and share messages, these companies cannot abdicate their responsibility for the spread of incorrect and defamatory information or fake news.

“Social media firms operating in India should comply with the laws of the land. Though they may be governed by rules of countries elsewhere, it is essential that they abide by Indian laws,” the judges said, expressing grave concern over the dangers posed by fake news and online hate campaign.

Referring to institutions and statutory forums established to monitor and control the broadcast and visual media, the bench asked the Centre as to whether there is any statutory body to rein in social media organisations and filter the spread of fake news.

At this, the counsel appearing for Centre submitted that the Union Government was in the process of bringing out a legislation to this effect and that it was in its final stages.

In its submissions, the Tamil Nadu government charged WhatsApp with non-cooperation in sharing required information for criminal investigation unlike Twitter and Facebook. WhatsApp was singled out for non-compliance with requests.

Recording the submissions, the judges posted the matter to October 10.

The bench was hearing a petition by animal rights activist Antony Clement Rubin. Initially, he sought a direction to make Aadhaar seeding mandatory for social media accounts to trace and prevent cyber crimes. On Thursday, he had amended his plea that instead of Aadhaar, it must be made mandatory to link any one government approved/authorised identities.

When Facebook approached the Supreme Court with a transfer petition, the apex court while allowing the high courts to proceed with cases pertaining to linking of Aadhaar to social media accounts had barred them from passing any final orders. Similar cases, all relating to Aadhaar linking with social media accounts, are there before the three high courts.

With the petitioner amending his plea, Madras high court ruling might have a bearing on Facebook’s plea before the Supreme Court.

First Published: Sep 20, 2019 19:21 IST

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