‘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

The Economic Times - - Companies - Sa­man­waya.Rau­tray @times­group.com

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.

REUTERS

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