PepsiCo Sues Facebook, Twitter And YouTube Over ‘Plastic In Kurkure’ Videos, Delhi HC Orders Videos To Be Taken Down
The soft drink giant PepsiCo has filed a petition against social media platforms and American tech companies for defaming its popular crisps brand ‘Kurkure’.
There have been rife rumours about Kurkure claiming that it contains plastic. There are myriad of videos on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube showing the burning of this crispy snack and the “presence” of plastic in Kurkure. PepsiCo claimed that they found these companies have provided a platform to publish these disparaging posts which affect their brand.
Reportedly, the Delhi High Court has given an interim order instructing social media platforms to block years of “defamatory” posts.
Plastic in Kurkure Rumours
“Kurkure is an extremely loved brand and consumed by families across India. However, fake news suggesting that Kurkure has plastic in it and it has adversely affected brand’s reputation. Due to such fake and defamatory content circulating on social media, PepsiCo India was constrained to move the Hon’ble Delhi High Court,” a PepsiCo spokesperson said in a statement.
“This step has been taken to protect brand equity, a matter that we take very seriously at PepsiCo. We are working constantly with all the platforms, to collectively counter the issue of spread of fake and defamatory content, following all procedural obligations to ensure compliance with the court order,” added the spokesperson, reported LiveMint.
The petition stated that these posts disseminate the myth that plastic is used as one of the ingredients to make Kurkure. PepsiCo went to the extent of suing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram for letting disparaging and defamatory posts against Kurkure.
The civil defamation suit compiles years of posts on the social media platforms, demanding that they should be taken down. There are 3412 Facebook links, 20244 Facebook posts, 242 YouTube videos, 6 Instagram links, and 562 tweets that have been ordered to be removed, reported The Economic Times.
PepsiCo in its suit demanded Rs 2.1 crore for damages in addition to blocking all the defaming links and posts. Delhi High Court accorded an interim, dated June 1 and June 23, 2018, stating social media platforms to block all URL/web links that are related to the rumour of plastic content in Kurkure. HC gave defendants 4 weeks to block and remove these contents.
On Monday, July 23, the court directed the social media platforms to submit the account details of individuals who had posted/shared disparaging content about Kurkure in a “sealed envelope” to the court. Though it is not clear what ‘account details’ will be shared, it could encompass the archive of posts, handle, phone number, age, email address and the ‘likes’ of the user.
Satire gone wrong
The content which was reported in the petition has been taken down or blocked in India as per the location of the user. Although the lawyer from the side of respondents enunciated the Supreme Court’s judgment that the automatic blocking of defamatory or satirical content is not possible humanly and the content which has been reported can be taken down.
The fact that some of the harmless and amusing posts, which just mocks the false news saying that Kurkure has plastic, have not gone down well with the folks at PepsiCo and those posts are also being taken down by Twitter.
The tweets of Prasanto Roy (Vice president of NASSCOM – The National Association of Software and Services Companies) and writer Samit Basu are an example of the satirical posts withheld in India.
As Mr. Prasanto humorously mimicked the fake Whatsapp forwards which are being widely forwarded. At first, the Twitter handle of Kurkure took the tweet mildly and replied to it by calling the news as fake.
In another case, a writer Mr. Samit Basu also jokingly tweeted about Kurkure having plastic and Pepsi wrote that Mr. Samit Basu has quite the talent for fantasy writing.
One of the Twitter handlers tweeted in June 2015, “Also… did you try burning Kurkure? It has pla..” and Twitter sent him a mail on July 20, 2018, saying his account details are submitted to the court for the legal process. Like this handler, many Twitter handlers have got this mail from Twitter.
Section 79 of the IT Act
When PepsiCo urged to block these malicious contents, this time social media companies forced the company to get instructions of the court citing Section 79 of the IT Act, while YouTube reportedly never responded and this culminated into the filing of the petition against these social media giants.
Section 79 of the IT Act is the safe harbour for intermediaries like Facebook and others which does not make platforms liable for any third-party information, data, or communication links made available.
PepsiCo has been fighting these rumours since 2013. When the company found videos slandering its product in October 2013, PepsiCo reported to Facebook and on October 10, 2013, Facebook removed the posts. Since then PepsiCo has organised many campaigns to invalidate fake news.
Next hearing date provided is on November 14, 2018.