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Andhra Pradesh court orders removal of content on 4 social media platforms

“The lack of pre-screening and control of intermediaries allows users to successfully download any material. In this process, false, harmful or even hateful speech is uploaded, ”the Andhra Pradesh High Court said in ordering the removal of content on four major social media platforms on November 1, according to LiveLaw. “Judge bashing” and the use of derogatory and contemptuous language against judges has become a favorite pastime of some people, ”the court added.

The contempt proceedings suo moto that the court had would have initiated last year against 49 people, involves an MP and MP from the YSRCP party as well as other party supporters. The court has now ordered Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to remove several posts as well as block a YouTube channel called “Panch Prabhakar” for criticizing its judges.

This is not the first time that a withdrawal order has been issued by a court to social media platforms in contempt proceedings. However, the problem stands out in the sheer number of people prosecuted against and the fact that an entire YouTube channel has been ordered to be blocked. MediaNama was unable to access the channel at the time of this report’s publication.

The case in brief

According to India time, the High Court seized the case in May 2020, after receiving several letters and finding several social media posts with videos attributing “motives, caste bias and corruption allegations” against Supreme Court justices and the PA High Court for their orders on several PILs. The messages contained “offensive, life-threatening and intimidating language directed against the judges”

During the hearing on November 1, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) revealed that, although it filed an FIR against 16 people, due to “cowards” on the part of intermediaries, the case had little advanced. The CBI also revealed that it had sent a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) request to the Home Office on the matter. MLAT is a treaty to which India is a party for cross-border information sharing.

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The CBI was also ordered by the court to remove the infringing content, but lawyer Sajjan Poovayya, representing the four platforms at the hearing, said the platforms need the URLs of the content for this. to do.

On November 1, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) released a sample format for sending content takedown orders, which lists content URLs as one of the components .

Related: Summary of Government IT Rules Clarifications and Some Comments from Us

What the IT rules say about content takedowns

According to the Frequently Asked Questions about IT rules published by MeitY last week, content removal orders should contain:

1. Identified platform specific URLs
2. The law being applied by the authorized body
3. The specific clause of the law violated
4. Justification and evidence; and
5. Any other information (eg timestamp in case of audio / video, etc.)

The 2021 IT rules state that intermediaries “shall not host, store or publish” any illegal content after being notified of it by a court or other government body, including content related to contempt of court.

Other online content cases leading to contempt proceedings

August 2020: India’s Supreme Court ordered Twitter to restrict lawyer Prashant Bhushan’s tweets after he was found in contempt of court.

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December 2020: Opinions were issued by the Supreme Court to cartoonist Rachita Taneja and comedian Kunal Kamra for their tweets, for contempt of court.

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