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Kerala HC seeks Govt response on plea to ban messaging app Telegram

In the absence of concrete content intermediary guidelines for social media in India, there has been a rise in legal cases and public interest litigations against internet tech platforms objectionable contents.

While the government is still finalising the draft rule for the same, there is no end of such cases. In the latest addition to the list is a writ petition against messaging app Telegram for allegedly uploading child abuse and pornographic content.

The Kerala High Court, hearing the petition seeking a ban on the messaging app, has directed the government to file response whether it should be banned or not.

Three days ago, the petition was filed by Athena Solomon, an LLM student of National Law School of India University Bengaluru in the High Court of Kerala. She said inappropriate content was being uploaded through the app and it must be banned.

Launched in Russia in 2013, Telegram allows for the anonymous posting of messages. It has the feature of circulating secret messages, completely shielding the identity of the person sending them.

This facility is being widely misused to circulate obscene and vulgar contents featuring women and children, contended the petition. The petitioner also stated that the app is being used as a channel by terrorists and criminals to execute their plans.

As per section 79(3) of the Information Technology Act 2000, an intermediary is bound to remove or block content on instructions from appropriate authorities.

However, Telegram which doesn’t have any registered office in India, unlike other social media intermediaries (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter et al.), enforcing intermediary liability against it is not possible, added the petitioner.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the govt to file an affidavit regarding the framing of guidelines to prevent misuse of social media by balancing the interests of online privacy and state sovereignty.

Last year in August, for spreading obscenity online Chinese app TikTok was banned for a brief period in India. After the court ruling, the Chinese app claimed to remove all the controversial content. It is yet to be seen if similar action will be taken against the Russian app.

The next hearing on the case is scheduled after three weeks.

Last year, Telegram was blocked by a court in Moscow as the firm had refused to hand over encryption keys used to scramble messages. It also faced a partial ban in Indonesia for allegedly allowing platforms that were full of radical and terrorist propaganda.

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