In October 2017, Tanushree Dutta filed a complaint against Nana Patekar, alleging that he behaved inappropriately with her at a movie shoot in 2008 and that brought in the #MeToo movement to India. One year later, the Delhi high court has asked Facebook to reveal the identity of the person behind the account that first made allegations against artist Subodh Gupta of sexual harassment, according to a media report.
Gupta is a contemporary Indian artist who recently sued the users of an Instagram handle called HerdSceneAnd for civil defamation and $700,000 in damages. The users of the handle remain anonymous. The HerdSceneAnd handle, a platform for women to share experiences of abuse and harassment in the art world in India, saw many testimonies accusing Gupta of misconduct, ranging from inappropriate sexual comments to unwanted, persistent advances. However, Gupta has denied the allegations.
On September 20, 2019, Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw ordered Facebook to provide “the particulars of the person behind the Instagram account” in a sealed envelope in time for the next hearing on November 18 this year, according to the report. Delhi HC also ordered Facebook, Google to take down posts alleging sexual harassment by Gupta. This saw opposition from various quarters. Nearly 40 artists have condemned the Delhi high court’s ruling in the defamation suit filed by Gupta
#MeToo Movement And Personal Data Protection Bill
While women who have come out in public about sexual harassment have gathered support from all corners, the lack of evidence seems to be the issue. Patekar has been given a clean chit by the Mumbai police after they could not find any evidence to support Dutta’s claims that he sexually harassed her on the sets of Rakesh Sarang’s Horn Ok Pleassss in 2008.
Cases wherein social media posts are involved and the identity of people accusing remains undisclosed, there has been a demand for data from social media handles. The Indian government has in fact been trying to set up guidelines for social media platforms and online content for more than a year now. It has been pushing to introduce data localisation across its policies such as Personal Data Protection Bill. This, however, may require many multinational technology companies to change their business model.
Gupta’s defamation case comes in at the time when the Indian government has been stringent about regulation of social media for the apparent public good. However, Facebook has not commented on its next steps for this case. The tech giant is yet to reveal a plan on how it is going to deal with the privacy and anonymity of its 2.4 billion global users in all its platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram and how and if it will share data with law enforcement agencies.