Delhi HC raps Twitter for waiting for content blocking orders, references Trump ban

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The Delhi High Court on Monday criticized Twitter for its reluctance to block the account of an atheist organization accused of repeatedly posting “blasphemous” content about a Hindu goddess, and said the site would have been more responsive if the content had been linked to another religion. .

While hearing a motion to remove the content, the court ordered the Center to review tweets from user @atheistrepublic and see if a blocking order was required under Section 69A of information technology law. He also ordered @atheistrepublic to release his location and other information about him. Twitter told the court that a first information report was filed by Karnataka police and six tweets were deleted.

Stating that the tweets were only removed after the orders were passed, the court chastised the social media platform for allegedly not using its own judgment to stop users from posting offensive content. “We would like you to show us that only when there is a court order… which means you will not use your own sense of judgement, your intellect, when you find something absolutely, brazenly blasphemous or offensive brazenly the feelings of the people,” said a bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla.

The bench questioned Twitter’s claim that it cannot block an account on its own without a court or government order. “If that is the logic, why did you block Mr. Trump?”

Noting that Twitter had previously blocked accounts of people in public life, the court ordered the site to submit its policy on the circumstances in which it resorted to such blocking of individuals. The bench also noted the guidelines to be followed by Twitter under the Information Technology Rules, 2021.

“Since [Twitter] did not question the prima facie opinion of this court regarding the nature and content of @atheistrepublic’s offensive posts, in our view [Twitter] should have on its own initiative, without waiting for today’s hearing, to delete the messages pointed out [out] by the petitioner as early as December 9, 2021,” the judges said.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Aditya Singh Deshwal, said Twitter was told twice about the tweets before the case was filed. Even Twitter’s guidelines state that no hateful content will be posted on its platform, it was claimed when requesting the account be blocked.

Twitter argued that it was not defending the actions of @atheistrepublic but reiterated that, in accordance with the Shreya Singhal ruling, individuals can only be blocked by government or court order.

However, the court observed: “Ultimately it comes down to the fact that the people you feel sensitive about…about the content, you will block them (but) you don’t care about other people’s sensitivities. people in other parts of the world, other ethnicities. We dare say that if the same kind of thing were to be done in relation to another religion, you would be much more careful and sensitive.

The court asked Twitter two questions: whether it is obliged to monitor its users and know if they post anything offensive, and whether it is supposed to block an account in the event of repeated complaints or remove content from every time. is a complaint.

If a user continuously posts such content, orders are issued to block it, the Center told the court. Twitter itself blocks accounts over complaints received by users, the Center added.

A lawyer representing @atheistrepublic told the court that the Information Technology Rules, 2021 were challenged in court. The user also pledged not to post similar offensive content until the case is decided in court.

“We direct him to affidavit the status of @atheistrepublic, namely its constitution; his location ; whether it has a place of business in India and also records contact details of its officers/representatives located in India,” the bench said, referring to the Twitter user’s attorney.

On October 29 last year, the court ordered Twitter to remove the allegedly objectionable content. A bench headed by then-Chief Justice DN Patel told Twitter that it should value people’s feelings and remove content. The court will hear the case on September 6.

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