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Delhi HC directs social media platforms to take down ‘sexually explicit video’ circulating online

The social media platforms that are made defendants in the suit are Google, WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter

The HC passed the direction in a lawsuit filed by a woman, seeking issuance of an order "permanently restraining" the social media platforms, their associates, sister concerns, agents and others from publishing, re-publishing and telecasting, in any manner, "a purported video dated March 9, 2022, which is stated to be circulating on various social media platforms as well as web portals since November 29, 2022".

The Delhi High Court on late Wednesday ordered social media platforms to take all permissible steps to ensure that the further sharing, distribution, forwarding or posting of an offending video, circulating online since Tuesday, is “restrained forthwith”.

The “sexually explicit” video, circulating on social media platforms since November 29, purportedly shows a judicial officer and a woman. A single judge bench of Justice Yashwant Varma directed the defendants – social media platforms – to ensure the video is not shared, distributed, forwarded or posted any further. It further directed the Centre, through the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, to ensure that “all further steps as are warranted… are taken and a compliance report submitted in these proceedings”.

The HC passed the direction in a lawsuit filed by a woman, seeking issuance of an order “permanently restraining” the social media platforms, their associates, sister concerns, agents and others from publishing, re-publishing and telecasting, in any manner, “a purported video dated March 9, 2022, which is stated to be circulating on various social media platforms as well as web portals since November 29, 2022”.

The woman further prayed for disabling the users of the services provided by the social media platform “from sharing or forwarding the video in question over their platform”. The woman, represented by the advocate Ashish Dixit, alleged that the video is “fake and fabricated”. The woman asserted that as per the time stamp in the video, “she was not present inside the chamber but was actually present inside the court”, Dixit said. The social media platforms that are made defendants in the suit are Google, WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter (defendants 1-4). The Centre, through the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, is arraigned as defendant number 5.

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The HC, which heard the lawsuit in chamber, said that it had viewed the content in respect of which the complaint was made. “The Court bears in mind the provisions of Section 354C (voyeurism) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as well as 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc, in electronic form) of the Information and Technology Act, 2000 which laws, prima facie, would appear to be violated in case further circulation, sharing and distribution of the video were to be permitted. The content, if circulated amongst parties and users of the services provided by the defendant numbers 1 to 4, would also appear to, prima facie, violate the Legally Acceptable Terms of Use as adopted by the said defendants,” the HC observed.

The order further states that a “Full Court had itself taken cognizance of the incident on the administrative side and pursuant to which the Resolution passed on 29 November 2022, the Registrar General of the Court has conveyed to the defendant number 5 the need to take appropriate action for blocking of the said video over all ISPs, messaging platforms as also social media platforms. The Registrar General has also in light of the directions issued by the competent authority requested defendant number 5 to issue appropriate take-down orders”.

Issuing notice to the social media platforms and the Centre, the HC granted an “ad interim ex parte injunction” in favour of the woman bearing in mind the “sexually explicit nature of the contents” of the video and after considering the imminent, grave and irreparable harm that is likely to be caused to her privacy rights.

The matter is further listed on December 9.

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 01:08 IST
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