New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed serious concern for social media search engines like Facebook, WhatsApp and Yahoo for their irresponsible behaviour in promoting objectionable materials leading to the lynching of people by violent mobs.
A Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta hearing a PIL filed by NGO Prajwala, warned these search engines of imposing an exemplary fine of Rs 5 lakh each per day till they develop a foolproof mechanism to prevent uploading of such objectionable materials including child pornography, gangrape, etc on such social media websites.
However, taking note of the assurances from senior advocates Kapil Sibal, V Giri and others said that a mechanism would be found out, the bench granted 30 days time to the sites and search engines Yahoo, Facebook Ireland, Facebook India, Google India, Google Inc., Microsoft and WhatsApp, to put in place a proper mechanism.
Expressing his anguish Justice Lokur asked the counsel “What type of attitude you are all adopting? There is so much objectionable material on the social media sites. People are being lynched across the country. People are dying at various places, but you (social media sites) seem to be not bothered. You are saying that as long as it does not happen to me, it is ok, when it happens to me, then we will look into it.”
The bench made the observation after advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for NGO Prajwala complained to the court that despite several assurances by the search engines and social media sites, child pornography continues to be available on the internet medium. She submitted except in desktops where there is a certain degree of restrictions on accessing child pornography, the objectionable materials including rape videos can easily be accessed on the laptops, smartphones and iPhones.
Justice Lokur asked the counsel, “How can you people be so irresponsible? So much material is still available on the social media sites. But you don’t want to do anything because you don’t want to own any responsibility. So let people die you will not do anything,”
Bhat told the court that none of the social media sites had so far bothered to come out with a suitable mechanism despite certain recommendations made by court-appointed committee comprising officials of MHA, I&B and IT Ministry.
Counsel for the websites drew the court’s attention to the fact that there were difficulties in strictly enforcing a total ban on such sites due to lack of adequate technical help.
However, the bench refused to buy the argument and said it can take its own time in evolving a suitable mechanism, but till then they have to pay Rs 5 lakh each per day as fine.
But the counsel sought time and gave an undertaking that they will comply with the court’s directive to ensure a foolproof mechanism to prevent uploading of objectionable material on the social media site. The court then granted them 30 days to comply with the directive and posted the matter for further hearing on August 27.