18 January, 2012
The future for Facebook, Google, YouTube and many other social networking sites in India may be full of difficulties if the Indian courts continue with their strict stance adopted thus far.
On a private complaint filed under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, punishing obscene objects, literature and contents, a criminal (lower) court in Delhi has summoned representatives of some 21 (twenty one) social networking sites including the aforesaid global biggies along with Microsoft and Yahoo. Reportedly, a Delhi judge has also ordered the social networking sites to remove all “anti-religious” and “anti-social” contents by February 6, 2012. The social networking sites thereafter approached the Delhi High Court (“DHC”) inter alia seeking stay of criminal proceedings against them.
While the DHC has till date not interfered with the criminal proceedings, its oral observations during the hearings indicate towards further troubles for social networking sites. At one instance, the judge observed that it might not hesitate going the China way, if the networking sites failed to remove the objectionable materials. At another stage in the arguments, the judge appreciated the “revenue per click” argument presented by the complainant’s counsel, and observed that the sites could be liable and responsible for the content posted or accessed through their platform, as they benefit from the users surfing it.
The DHC is hearing detailed arguments in the matter on a regular basis, and is expected to pass a detailed order on the subject, which may have far reaching implications on future operations and conduct of social networking sites in India.
For further information, please contact:
Seema Jhingan, Partner, LexCounsel