Intermediary Can’t Decide Whether Content Lawful: Twitter To Delhi High Court


Intermediary Can’t Decide Whether Content Lawful: Twitter To Delhi High Court

The high court had earlier pulled up Twitter for not voluntarily taking action

New Delhi:

Social media giant Twitter Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that being an intermediary it cannot decide whether content on its platform is lawful or otherwise, and it takes action when a court or the appropriate government notifies it to take down unlawful material.

The submission was made by Twitter in an affidavit filed in response to a petition against publication of alleged objectionable content about a Hindu Goddess.

As the counsel for the petitioner sought time to go through and respond to the affidavit, a bench of Chief Justice S C Sharma and Justice S Prasad listed the matter for further hearing on October 28.

The high court was hearing a petition against the allegedly obnoxious posts on ‘Maa Kaali’ by user ‘AtheistRepublic’.

Twitter, in its affidavit, said the information is required to be actioned when the platform is put to actual knowledge of any content that may be unlawful and has so been determined by a court of competent jurisdiction or by the appropriate government.

“Actual knowledge has been interpreted by the Supreme Court in the case of … to mean either court order and/ or the notification by the appropriate government or its agency. This includes orders under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

“Content that is notified to the answering respondent (Twitter) by way of a court order or by notification by the appropriate agency is then taken down. The answering respondent being an intermediary cannot decide whether content on its platform is lawful or otherwise unless it is put to such ‘actual knowledge’,” it said.

Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for Twitter, said it has removed the objectionable content in the present case and an FIR has been registered in relation to the posts.

The high court had earlier pulled up Twitter for not voluntarily taking action against the account which allegedly published objectionable content about the Hindu Goddess and said the micro-blogging platform was not bothered about sensitivities of people from “other regions” and ethnicities. Twitter’s counsel had earlier said it “cannot block any individual” or take action against allegedly objectionable content in the absence of a court order.

The Central government’s counsel had said there was a procedure in place for the blocking of Twitter accounts against whom complaints are received.

The court had taken on record the Twitter user’s undertaking that, in the meantime, it would not post any similar offending material.

The lawyer for AtheistRepublic had said its account cannot be blocked without giving it an opportunity of being heard.

Petitioner Aditya Singh Deshwal had sought blocking of the Twitter user for putting out “ridiculous content against all religions” and being a habitual offender.

In October last year, the court had said Twitter shall respect sentiments of the general public as it was doing business for them and asked it to remove certain objectionable material relating to the Hindu Goddess from its platform.

The petitioner had claimed Goddess Kaali was represented in a “disgraceful and outrageous” manner by AtheistRepublic and such content was in grave contravention of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 and non-compliance of the rules shall make Twitter lose its legal immunity provided under the Information Technology Act.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)