‘Under No Legal Obligation to Weed Out Objectionable Content on Our Own’
Google tells SC it need not act in the absence of any specific complaint
New Delhi: Internet search engine Google on Wednesday told the Supreme Court it was under “no legal obligation” to scan and weed out videos containing objectionable sexual content on its own in the absence of any specific complaint amid allegations that videos of the alleged rape of a Malayalam actress recently were doing the rounds on the social media.
“The case is about a legal obligation. There is no legal obligation on me to discover. There can’t be a legal obligation. Your lordship can’t do it. The object is to catch the real person. Object is not to catch me,” senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued for the search engine.
Singhvi was arguing before a two-judge bench, comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and UU Lalit, dealing with a 2015 PIL which seeks to prevent uploading of videos involving crimes against women. Under the Indian Information Technology Act, search engines are not responsible for any content uploaded by third parties. “Supposing nobody complains, do you act or not. We are asking you the factual position,” Justice Lalit asked. Singhvi replied: “Factually not possible, unless Google uploads it. Say some video is uploaded by me then your lordships can catch us.”
But Justice Lalit would not hear of this. “You can facilitate catching of the offender,” he observed.
The senior judge Justice Lokur pointed out that under American laws, Google has to block any such content both on a complaint and even if it discovers it on its own. Singhvi shrugged it off saying that it was only required under Indian law to initiate the process of setting into motion its own internal mechanism upon receiving a specific complaint.
Singhvi said that the company had an “internal grievance officer” to address any such complaints.
Aparna Bhatt, lawyer for NGO Prajwala which had drawn the court’s attention to 100 such videos circulating in social media, charged that the recent rape of a popular Kerala actress by her ex-driver was available on Facebook.
She claimed that Facebook was reluctant to take such videos off, a charge company lawyer Siddharth Luthra denied. He, however, would check and get back to the court. Even after the matter was brought to its notice, Facebook was dismissive of the complaint. Facebook allegedly said that such videos did not “violate our community standards”, she charged.
The court, which will again resume hearing the case on Monday, also asked CBI on Wednesday to probe over 100 videos relating to rape of women.