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Petition Filed Against Instagram Over ‘Bois Locker Room’ Group Chats

Petition Filed Against Instagram Over ‘Bois Locker Room’ Group Chats

Presence of fake accounts is one of the main reasons behind such content, said petitioner KN Govindacharya

Instagram alleged to be promoting fake user accounts to gain more ad revenue

Advocates say Instagram was liable to file a complaint about the group's chats under child abuse law

Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue KN Govindacharya has filed an interim petition in the Delhi high court (HC), seeking liability of social media platforms like Instagram over the content posted on their platform in the ‘Bois Locker Room’ case.

The petitioner, who had recently sent a legal notice to the government flagging privacy and legal concerns over contact tracing app Aarogya Setu, has alleged that the ‘Bois Locker Room’ incident showcases the “vilest form” of social media. He noted that the presence of fake users is one of the core reasons behind such illegal content.

Govindacharya also highlighted that social media platforms like Instagram are the direct beneficiaries of fake users as it increases their advertisement revenue. His legal counsel also specified that Instagram and Facebook must take concrete steps to protect children in the cyberspace and avoid cases like the ‘Bois Locker Room.’

The former RSS ideologue had also filed a petition raising the actions taken by social media platforms to tackle fake news and hate speech. The Delhi High Court had also issued notices to social media platforms after hearing the plea.

Should Instagram Be Held Liable For Bois Locker Room?

Notably, social media platforms enjoy a safe harbour under the Section 79 IT Act, which grants conditional immunity to intermediaries from liability for third party acts. Meaning, social media platforms as merely a facilitator of communication and do not have any “knowledge nor control” over the information transmitted through it.

Nonetheless, Instagram will still have to coordinate with authorities and provide relevant details when asked, Prasanth Sugathan, volunteer legal director at the Software Freedom Law Center, had told Inc42.

Meanwhile, advocate Neela Gokhale, who wrote to the chief justice of the Delhi high court last week highlighting the seriousness of the case, earlier said that even with the provision of safe harbour protections, Instagram can still be held liable under the Section 20 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The act requires any personnel of media or other groups to file a complaint with the special juvenile police unit or the local police wherever they come across any such content.

However, Instagram did not file any such complaint and following its community guidelines, it removed the chats from the platform. Gokhale had added that Instagram also had an opportunity to file a complaint as soon as the “Bois Locker Room 2.0” was created, but the company did not do so.

Inc42 had also reached out to Instagram seeking confirmation regarding these allegations, but the company chose not to reply.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) has also taken suo-moto cognizance of the “Bois locker room”, and issued a notice to Instagram asking them about the actions taken by them against the alleged abuse. The women’s commission had also asked Instagram to submit a copy of the FIR registered in the matter and share the details of the members of the group.