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Twitter to Delhi HC: Intermediary Can’t Decide if Content on its Platform is Lawful or Not

2 min read

Khushi Bajpai

Published on: September 7, 2022 at 20:257 IST

Twitter has notified the Delhi High Court that, as an intermediary, it cannot determine if any content on its platform is legal or not unless it is put to “actual knowledge” after being ruled upon by the proper court or government.

The social media behemoth claimed that the Supreme Court in the Shreya Singhal case defined “actual knowledge” to imply either a court order or a notification by the government or its agency.

“This also applies to Section 69A of the IT Act orders. The content is then removed after being reported to the answering respondent (Twitter) via court order or official notification.”

“Being an intermediary, the Answering Respondent cannot determine whether or not content on its platform is legal until it is subjected to such “real knowledge,” it claimed.

It went on to say that content can also be taken down from Twitter for breaking the platform’s rules of service.

The Answering Respondent and its users have a user agreement as well. The Respondent in the question stipulates in its Terms of Service that certain content may be forbidden on its service and that users who breach these Terms may have their accounts suspended or their content removed.

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 [IT Rules 2021] have no effect on this contractual right, Twitter noted in response.

It was also mentioned that the Delhi High Court was already debating whether or not a writ petition against Twitter was valid and that the Bench in that case had already had a portion of a hearing on the subject.

The response was provided in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Advocate Aditya Deshwal highlighting the fact that several objectionable posts were being made through the Twitter account, Atheist Republic, and that despite numerous complaints, Twitter has not suspended the account or removed the offensive content.

When even the account of former US President Donald Trump was suspended, the High Court expressed its displeasure with Twitter’s behavior and questioned the social media company about why it did not take action and suspend accounts that post offensive and “blasphemous” content about Hindu gods and goddesses.

However, the US-based social media juggernaut argues that it is not a “State” as defined by Article 12 and questions the viability of a writ suit filed against it.

It contended that it is a private middleman and that, according to relevant legislation, only when a user accepts its Terms of Service can they use its services.

The Division Bench consisting of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad heard the petition of Deshwal.

Senior attorney Sidharth Luthra attended on behalf of Twitter and said that practically all of the petition’s requests had been granted.

He claimed that the offensive posts had been deleted, a FIR had been filed against the violators, and the account had also been suspended.

The Court scheduled the case for further deliberation on October 28.