Seeking interim protection against the declaration as a "Social Media Intermediary" under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021, Google LLC filed a plea in the Delhi High Court and said that the rules are not applicable to them as it is search engine, LiveLaw reported. The plea was filed when a single-bench judge, Justice Anup Bhambhani, had found that Google as a 'social media intermediary' while hearing a case in April.
A petitioner had alleged that her photographs were taken from her social media accounts without her consent or knowledge and later uploaded on a pornographic website. The court had passed a judgment that the conduct is punishable under Section 67 of the IT Act and fell under the meaning of mischief under the Indian Penal Code and IT Act. The judge had classified Google as a social media intermediary which conflated the rules of the IT Act 2009. The search engine was required to remove the flagged posts and other similar content within 24 hours.
"Firstly, we are a search engine and not a social media intermediary, so we are not covered under the definition of Significant Social Media Intermediary in the IT Rules, 2021," said advocate Harish Salve. The advocate also added a blanket order to remove the content cannot be issued since 'offensive' is a subjective term and what is offensive in India but not be offensive in other countries. Template directions issued by a single judge sets a bad precedent and the judge had also conflated the 2009 IT Rules.
The Delhi HC had said that it would not give any protection at this stage and issued a notice to the Centre, the Delhi government, the Internet Service Providers Association of India, Facebook, the pornographic site and the woman, on whose plea the single judge's ruling had come and sought their responses by July 25.
The IT Act 2021 was issued on February 25 to regulate social media intermediaries and digital media by providing a strict deadline to remove flagged content, enable traceability of 'first originated message' and appointing officers for a grievance redressal mechanism.
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