SOCIAL networking site Facebook on Monday told the Bombay High Court that it could not censor any content on its site, in response to a petition to restrain any political advertisements, videos or messages 48 hours before elections.
Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar were hearing a petition filed by Sagar Suryavanshi, a Pune-based lawyer, seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to restrain any form of advertisements, videos or messages 48 hours before elections. The petition also demands regulation of social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and search engine Google, during the no-campaign period before voting commences.
Senior counsel Darius Khambata appearing for Facebook said they could not carry out such operations on their own. “We can’t self censor any content on the site,” he said, adding that “this would violate the freedom of speech”. To this, the bench told Facebook that it should also act responsible. The bench further said that if such sites were regulated outside country then why not in this country. Facebook sought two weeks’ time to file a detailed affidavit.
At the previous hearing, advocate Pradeep Rajgopal for the ECI had told the court that a committee appointed by the ECI had suggested amendments to Section 126 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, which prohibits any public meetings and processions in connection with the election or display for the public any election matter during the 48 hours black-out period. The committee suggested empowering ECI to issue appropriate direction to private entities.
On Monday, the bench asked why the ECI could not issue appropriate orders instead of waiting for an amendment in the law.