Act on social media misuse: Supreme Court to Centre

Act on social media misuse: Supreme Court to Centre

FILE PHOTO: A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Observing that technology has taken a "dangerous turn" and it hardly takes five minutes to purchase an AK-47 rifle on the 'dark web', the Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Centre must step in and inform it within three weeks the time-frame needed for framing guidelines to curb misuse of social media.

Expressing concern about intermediaries like Facebook and WhatsApp not being able to trace the originator of an offending post or content, the top court said it is a "very serious issue" as it also involves terrorism, pornography, paedophilia, fake news and trolling.

The court stressed that guidelines must be framed keeping in mind the privacy of individuals. At the same time, they must help in maintaining the sovereignty of the country.

A bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose sought to know what kind of statutory regime could be put in place to prevent the spread of fake news and hate, terror and porn messages through social media. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the government has framed draft rules and invited suggestions.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Facebook Inc seeking transfer of cases pending before various high courts in the country which relate to linking of social media profiles with Aadhaar and tracing the originator of online messages.

The top court asked the Union government to file an affidavit within three weeks and posted the matter — on making global companies like Facebook and WhatsApp answerable to law enforcement agencies here — for consideration on October 22.

During the hearing, Justice Gupta said, “I don’t think the Supreme Court and high courts should decide how intermediaries should work.” But the “misuse of social media has become dangerous. The government should step in at the earliest to deal with the situation. We can’t say we don’t have the technology to trace the origin of online crimes. If the originator has the technology, we have the technology to counter it.”

Justice Gupta said that at one point, he himself had thought of doing away with his smart phone. He said with the help of an expert, he could reach a site where AK-47 was available for purchase.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, concurred with the bench that the issue involves serious deliberation as fake news is being spread on the social media, pictures are being morphed and violence is being incited by posting a picture from some other country.

Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Facebook and WhatsApp respectively, submitted that a matter pending before the Madras High Court must be transferred to the apex court for adjudication.

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