Meta told the Delhi High Court that the fundamental rights under Article 19 (free speech) of the Constitution of India cannot be invoked against it
Meta said in its affidavit, the ‘Instagram service is a free and voluntary platform’, governed by a private contract
In a response to a petition by a Twitter user against the suspension of his account by the platform, the Centre in March said that social media platforms should not take down the account itself or completely suspend it in all cases
Meta Platforms Inc, the mother company of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, has said that free speech can’t be invoked against it by a user as it is a private entity that does not discharge a public function.
Meta told the Delhi High Court that the fundamental rights under Article 19 (free speech) of the Constitution of India cannot be invoked against it.
In a response to a writ petition against an alleged disabling on an Instagram account, Meta said in its affidavit, the ‘Instagram service is a free and voluntary platform’, governed by a private contract, and the petitioner user ‘has no fundamental right to use it’, as reported by PTI.
The high court is seized of various petitions challenging the deletion and suspension of several user accounts by various social media platforms.
In March 2022, the Centre told the Delhi High Court that an individual’s liberty and freedom cannot be ‘waylaid or jettisoned in the slipstream of social and technological advancement’ and the social media platforms must respect the fundamental rights of the citizens and conform to the Constitution of India.
In an affidavit filed in response to a petition by a Twitter user against the suspension of his account by the micro-blogging platform, the central government said that social media platforms should not take down the account itself or completely suspend it in all cases.
In the present case, Meta contended that it is not obligated to carry out a ‘public duty’ and when action is taken against a user as per the private contract between them, it results in a ‘contractual dispute between two private parties’.
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The social media giant said, whether its alleged actions were improper is governed by the Instagram Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. Meta is not amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the high court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.
According to the affidavit, Meta stated that contrary to the petitioner’s allegations, it does not enjoy a monopoly in the domain of information dissemination or carry out any sovereign function.
The law only requires intermediaries to provide an opportunity to appeal after the action has been taken against any account and not hear them before action is taken, it said.
Meanwhile, Meta-owned Facebook took action against 21.58 Mn pieces of content on its platform between March 1-31, 2022, according to the company’s compliance report released for March under the new IT Rules.
Out of these contents, 14.9 Mn pieces were spam, followed by violent and graphic content at 2.5 Mn pieces. Action taken against content on adult nudity and sexual activity on Facebook stood at 2.1 Mn, followed by child endangerment – sexual exploitation related content at 609.9K.
Also, Meta’s WhatsApp banned 18,05,000 Indian accounts during March 1-31, 2022, as per its tenth compliance report. The messaging platform received 597 grievances in March, including 407 ban appeals, the report said.
The grievances included 112 instances of account support, 28 related to other support, 37 related to product support and 13 related to safety. WhatsApp ‘actioned’ 74 accounts during the month.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has banned 16 YouTube channels for spreading disinformation related to India’s national security and foreign relations.
Under the new IT rules, large digital platforms — with more than 5 Mn users – will have to publish periodic compliance reports every month, mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken thereon.
However, the new IT Rules have also spurred a standoff between the Centre and some digital and social media companies, who have claimed that these guidelines were ‘illegal and unconstitutional’ and against freedom of the press.