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

The Delhi High Court on Monday criticized Twitter for not acting quickly enough to block the account of an atheist organization accused of repeatedly posting blasphemous material about a Hindu deity.

The court observed that the social media website would have been more sensitive if the content was about “another religion” and asked the company to show it the law that action against offensive tweets can only be taken on court order.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to what people you feel sensitive to…about the content, you’ll block them (but) you don’t care about other people’s sensitivities 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 High Court said.

The Divisional Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla ordered the Center to review the tweets in question and other allegedly offensive user posts to see if they could be blocked under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. The bench also ordered the @atheistrepublic account to release his location and other information about himself.

The guidelines were issued after the court heard a motion to remove allegedly objectionable content about the goddess Kali posted by @atheistrepublic.

The bench had posed two questions to Twitter – a. Is there an obligation on its part to monitor its users and find out if they post anything offensive; b. Is it supposed to block an account for repeated complaints or only remove content every time there is a complaint?

In response, the social media company said it had deleted six of the tweets from the account and an FIR had been filed by Karnataka Police. But, questioning Twitter’s claim that it cannot block an account without a court order, the bench asked, “If that’s the logic, why did you block Mr. Trump?”

The court went on to say, “We would like you to show us that (you can only act) when there is a court order… which means you will not use your own judgment, your intellect, when you find something absolutely, brazenly blaspheming or brazenly offensive to the feelings of the people”.

Noting that Twitter previously blocked the accounts of public figures, the Bench Division ordered the website to document its policy on when it takes such actions. The court also noted that Twitter had to comply with the guidelines of the 2021 IT Rules.

“Since (Twitter) has not challenged the prima facie opinion of this court regarding the nature and content of the impugned messages from @atheistrepublic, in our view (Twitter) should have on its own initiative, without waiting for the today’s hearing, removed the messages that were pointed to by the petitioner as early as December 9, 2021,” the Chamber added.

Earlier, petitioner Aditya Singh Deshwal, a lawyer, told the court that Twitter was told twice about the tweets under review before the case was filed. He argued that Twitter was required to do due diligence under the new IT rules. Even the website’s guidelines prohibit hateful content on its platform, the petitioner added.

The Center told the House that orders to block tweets are issued when a user continuously posts offensive content. The government also argued that Twitter itself blocks accounts based on user complaints.

A lawyer representing @atheistrepublic told the court that the latest IT rules were being challenged in court and pledged that similar offensive material would not be posted by the account until the case was brought to court. the tribunal.

“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 details of its officers/representatives located in India,” the bench said.

The court first ordered Twitter to remove the allegedly objectionable content on October 29. At the time, a divisive bench headed by then-Chief Justice DN Patel asked the social media company to give weight to people’s feelings and remove the content.

The case will be heard on September 6.