Written by Shaurya Mahajan
Today, The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) informed the Delhi High Court that action taken by social media platforms against accounts should be proportionate to the offending content and taking down the account itself should be only the last resort.
This was submitted by the ministry in the affidavit filed in the Megha Chaubey v. Union of India and Ors case.
The affidavit further said that social media platforms should respect fundamental rights of citizens and should not resort to an outright ban of an account only if some portion of the content is unlawful. It was further added Only when most of the posts and content are unlawful, should social media companies take down the account.
This affidavit was filed in response to a plea by a political satire handle, Wokeflix, challenging the decision of social media platforms Twitter and Meta (parent company of Instagram) to disable/suspend its users accounts.
Justice V Kameswar Rao on March 8, had, issued notice to Twitter, Meta and Central government on the Wokeflix’s petition.
Besides plea by Wokeflix, the High Court is also seized of around half a dozen cases related to such ban on accounts by social media companies. The matter has been listed next for April 13 for final disposal, after being heard on Wednesday by Justice Yashwant Varma.
The affidavit by the Central government said that social media companies are duty-bound to protect fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. It was further stated that the allegation of Wokeflix not being given a chance to present its stand before being suspended is contrary to the tenets for the Constitution. Additionally, the nature of the unlawful post and its gravity would play a role in determining whether prior notice is required before suspension. Unless the content falls under exceptional ones as defined in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 (IT Rules 2021), prior notice is required to be given and the aggrieved user can challenge the same under Rule 7 of the IT Rules, the affidavit further added.
Thus, a social media platform should give prior notice to the user to take down the offending content and only in cases where majority of the content/ tweet/ posts by an account are unlawful, the platform can resort to the extreme step of taking down the user’s account itself. If any authority including a social media company is allowed to go unchecked under the legal framework to act on its own whims, it defeats natural and inalienable rights, the government underscored.