New IT rules don’t apply to us, Google tells Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court seeks Centre’s stand

June 02, 2021 11:17 am | Updated 11:18 pm IST - New Delhi

Google claims the court “mischaracterised” its search engine as a ‘social media intermediary’ or ‘significant social media intermediary’.

Google claims the court “mischaracterised” its search engine as a ‘social media intermediary’ or ‘significant social media intermediary’.

Google told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that the new Information Technology Rules 2021, which came into effect late last month, did not apply to the U.S.-based tech giant as it was a “search engine” and not a “social media intermediary” like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

On April 20, the High Court issued a slew of directions on a petition by a woman who claimed her photographs and images, though not in themselves obscene or offensive, were taken from her Facebook and Instagram accounts without her consent, and uploaded on a pornographic website with derogatory captions added to them.

Google urged the High Court to quash its April 20 order which applied the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines & Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 to it, while dealing with an issue related to removal of offending content from the Internet.

It said the High Court in its April 20 order had “generally” observed that for removal or access disablement of offending content, they must be blocked throughout the world. This observation, it said, was “overbroad and cannot apply to all takedown orders for all grievances”.

“Global removal is applicable to such objectionable content which is universally recognized as unlawful (for eg. child pornography). However, there may be content which is prohibited in India but is lawful in other countries,” Google said.

Acting on Google’s plea, a bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice to the Centre, Delhi government, Internet Service Providers’ Association of India, Facebook, the pornographic site and the woman on whose plea the April 20 order was passed.

The bench said it was not going to issue any interim order at this stage and posted the case for further hearing on July 25.

Google said the function of a search engine was to only “crawl and index existing information as available or published or hosted by independent third-party websites”.

This process of search did not censor the findings — it found material that corresponded to the request of the search, hosted by other independent third-party websites that were beyond the control of search engines.

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