The Delhi High Court has directed Google and Facebook to remove “objectionable” images of a woman that was uploaded by multiple users on their social media platforms without her consent — including by a former schoolmate in Delhi who had travelled to the UK where she was studying and allegedly assaulted her a few years ago.
The court also ruled that it is necessary for social media sites to take all effective measures available to ensure that child pornographic content is not hosted on their platforms. It said that police will identify those re-uploading the offensive content in India and take action.
The woman, now 24, had approached the High Court seeking directions for removal of the “objectionable photographs” from various platforms. The platforms had allegedly failed to remove the URLs, more than 50 in number, forwarded to them by the woman, she told the court.
In her plea, the woman said she had become “very close friends” with a boy at her school in Delhi in 2012, when she was 16 years old. The plea described their relationship as “abusive” and stated that he compelled her to send intimate photographs to him, and later emotionally blackmailed her.
She stated in the plea that even after she ended the relationship, the accused continued to pursue her, even visiting the UK a few years ago, when he landed at her residence and physically assaulted her leading to a local police complaint.
The plea stated that the accused pleaded guilty before a Magistrate Court in the UK in 2017 and was restrained from contacting her by any means and barred from entering the city, where she was living, for two years.
In October-November 2019, the plea stated, the woman became aware that the accused had posted her pictures on social media platforms following which an FIR was registered with Cyber Police in Delhi.
In July this year, Facebook, which owns Instagram, and Google, which owns YouTube, told the court the URLs have been removed, but the pictures continued to surface on the Internet through other multiple users. “This brought into sharp focus the problem of preventing circulation of identified objectionable material on the platforms operated on the net,” Justice Vibhu Bakhru said in the order.
Observing that the platforms would be required to take down or remove unlawful content on receiving information about it, the court said the issue also was whether Instagram and Google are required to ensure that such child pornographic (CP) material is not hosted on their platforms. The court referred to Section 20 of the POCSO Act and Rule 11 of the POCSO Rules, 2020.
“Given the statutory framework, it would be necessary for the intermediaries to take all effective measures that may be available with them to ensure that the CP content is not hosted on their platforms. The respective affidavits filed by (Instagram and Google) also indicate that they are using Artificial Intelligence and other tools to remove the offending content from their platforms,” the order stated.
Observing that the “offending material” relating to the petitioner falls within the scope of sexually explicit material relating to a child, the court asked police agencies to forward them to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the nodal agency for the online cyber reporting portal.
“The NCRB shall also use the protocols available in terms of the Memorandum of Understanding entered into with NCMEC (National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children) or otherwise to notify the offending material in order that the same can be actioned and removed from other platforms as well,” the order stated.
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