News By/Courtesy: Akanksha Dash | 22 May 2020 14:29pm IST


  • Petitioner accuses companies of contempt of Indian laws.
  • The existence of harmful and illegal groups are not protected under free speech
  • The social media companies are responsible for the content they are condoning

A PIL has been filed against the rampant illegal content present and condoned by the Social Media companies. The PIL filed by K.N. Govindacharya urges the Government to take required action against the companies for non-compliance with a 2012 order and book them under the Indian Penal Code and Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act and the Information Technology Act, 2000.
It sought a formal notification of details of the designated officers as mandated by the rules under the IT Act 2000. It also sought directions for the removal of fake news and hate speech on social media platforms through those designated officers.
An earlier petition by the petitioner filed in 2012 detailed unlawful groups in social media which are also violating the companies terms and conditions and based on the petition the companies and the government had assured that “they will make an effective mechanism for removal of illegal groups to protect the children in cyberspace.”
However, the episode of Bois Locker Room and the Gurgaon suicide incident “reflects the failure of social media companies in performing their obligations.” The Petitioner also added that they are “only the tip of the iceberg, which is causing a big shockwave in the students, schools, and society.”
The petition states that the companies refrain from taking action against the groups as they are helping them earn a profit. And that these illegal groups are a bad influence on children and many young lives are lost. “Such groups are criminal in nature and do not deserve any protection of free/creative speech.”
The groups referred to are mostly related to – pornography, nudity, graphic violent content, drugs, child prostitution, hate speech, etc.
This Court had ordered on 23.08.2013 that children below 13 years of age cannot join social media. The said order was passed in a Writ Petition filed by the Petitioner. Thus, the illegality of minors having accounts on social media cannot be disputed and the same needs to be enforced.
Due to the drop in the price of data and the rise in the smartphone market, social media has become more accessible; however, the required safeguards haven’t been implemented. Now, even schools have moved online due to the lockdown and more and more minors have started using the internet more. And it is “our collective responsibility to ensure safe cyberspace for our children.”
The petition states that the  ”presence of such accounts/groups/content on social media is not about boys or girls, but relates to the overall well-being of juveniles in general. That the presence of fake users is one of the core reasons behind such content. Social Media companies are direct beneficiaries of fake users, as it increases their advertisement benefits. These fake users are also part of vested groups, who push illegal content to corrupt the minds of innocent children.”
The petitioner criticized the influencer business of the companies and said that this shows the “culpability of the companies.” It states that “…there are influencers who are as young as 6 years of age, and children between 6-12 years of age are considered a whole market category.” These influencers are utilized to promote harmful content and promote profanity. This content is accessible to young children even ones below 13.
The lack of sincerity in the steps taken is visible from the exponential growth of such platforms. They claim to get up moderation tools and internal boards to deal with complaints but their “contempt towards Indian laws is visible.”
It has also come to the attention of the public that the reply given by Instagram in the Bois locker room incident is not satisfactory at all.
The issue here is that it is difficult to ascertain whom to address in such situations. Like the DWC notice was addressed to the Country Head of Facebook – something that does not exist.
The Petition prays to the court to direct the removal of such harmful content and make social media a safe space.

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 22 May 2020 20:04pm IST

Tags : social media, cyberspace, safety

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