Why not ban non-cooperative social media majors, asks HC


Their refusal to share vital information irks judges

The Madras High Court on Wednesday asked the Centre why it was not banning Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter and other social media majors in the country if they were not adhering to the law of the land and assisting the investigating agencies here in solving cyber crimes.

A Division Bench of Justices S. Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad raised the query during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to the Centre to make linking of Aadhaar mandatory to open e-mail and social media accounts so that erring individuals could be identified easily.

The petitioner Antony Clement Rubin had made the request by citing a specific instance wherein the police were unable to trace a person who had maligned a girl on social media. The judges rejected the request to link Aadhaar but decided to examine why the social media giants were not sharing information with the police.

During the course of the hearing of the case, senior central government standing counsel V. Venkatesan told the court that many social media companies were yet to appoint Grievance Officers in the country as mandated under the Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules of 2011.

“Then why are you allowing them to operate in the country? Block them,” the senior judge said. He wondered how would the police be able to solve crimes such as data theft, defamation, cyber stalking, identity theft, transmission of obscene material and cheating by impersonation if the social media companies did not assist.

To this, Mr. Venkatesan replied that the situation was no different in the United States too where again the police find it very difficult to obtain information from social media giants.

Notice to Twitter

Senior counsel Satish Parasaran, representing Facebook, brought it to the notice of the court that the company did have a well laid down privacy policy in place and it was not as if it refused to share information in every other case.

He agreed to place the policy, along with a detailed reply, in the court.

Immediately, Justice Prasad said: “The moot question here is how can you be the adjudicating authority to decide what information could be parted with and what cannot be? We’ll have to examine that.” Later, the judges ordered notice to Twitter too and adjourned further hearing on the case by three weeks.

The Chennai city police had already filed an affidavit in the court stating that the cyber crime cell was facing difficulties in obtaining information from multinational social media companies. Though 1,940 requests were made to those companies between 2016 and 2018, only 484 were honoured, it claimed.

The police complained that search engines such as Google refused to share the Internet Protocol (IP) log details by stating that the IP addresses had originated outside the jurisdiction of the Indian police. Even in some cases where the log details were shared, they were found to be dynamic IPs assigned to multiple users.

To fix the exact user, Internet Service Providers require the port number allotted to the user but the social media companies refused to share those numbers. The court was informed that companies such as GoDaddy, Beam Telecom and Saudi Telecom did not respond at all.

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Printable version | Nov 22, 2019 7:21:59 AM |

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