Drawing a parallel between social media platforms and a rash and negligent driver, the Madras High Court on Friday came down heavily on the social media companies for shirking their responsibility and accountability to Indian laws.
A division bench of Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice N Seshasayee observed that it was unfortunate that the social media companies, while providing a platform for people to post their views and share messages, resort to conveniently relinquish their responsibility for the spread of incorrect and defamatory information or fake news, which ultimately end in public disorder.
“Social media firms operating in India should comply with the laws of the land. Though they may be governed by rules of countries elsewhere, it is essential that they abide by Indian laws,” the bench said.
Noting that he, too, was a WhatsApp user, Justice Seshasayee said the social media companies have no right to intrude his privacy with false news under the guise of privacy laws, encryption and having created an impregnable law.
During the hearing, the counsel appearing for Tamil Nadu government charged WhatsApp with non-cooperation in sharing required information for criminal investigation unlike Twitter and Facebook.
To this, senior counsel T Raja appearing for WhatsApp contended that they were following the rules, but the Centre was yet to finalise the same. The issue ought to be approached with a global perspective, he added.
But the bench led by Justice Sathyanarayanan noted that they were bothered only about India and whether the CrPC rules were being followed.
However, the bench asked the counsel appearing for the Centre as to whether there was any statutory body to rein in the unbridled powers of social media organisations and filter the spread of fake news.
To this, the counsel submitted that deliberations on the draft rules framed was over and the same was pending for government approval.
The counsels appearing for the social media companies made it known that the plea moved by them seeking to transfer all cases pending in this regard to the Supreme Court was set to be heard soon. The bench the posted the matter to October 1 for further hearing.
Meanwhile, Antony Clement Rubin, the petitioner who had initially sought a direction to make linking Aadhaar mandatory for social media accounts to trace and prevent cybercrimes, moved an amendment plea seeking to replace Aadhaar with any one government approved identification.
It may be noted that the Supreme Court, while hearing the transfer petition moved by Facebook, had allowed the three High Courts where similar cases relating to linking social media accounts to Aadhaar are being heard, to proceed with cases while barring them from passing any final orders.