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Delhi HC seeks MeitY, Twitter response on plea to frame guidelines for censorship on social media

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The Delhi High Court has issued notice to the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) and micro-blogging site Twitter seeking response on a plea by a senior advocate Sanjay Hegde challenging the suspension of his Twitter account.

Hegde, in his plea, urged to frame guidelines for censorship on social media in accordance with the provision of the Constitution of India.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla issued notice to the Central government and Twitter.

Senior advocate has sought a direction to Twitter to refrain from deleting the data of his account and restoration of his Twitter account, which was permanently suspended by Twitter on November 5, 2019, allegedly for re-tweeting two posts.

“The arbitrariness of Respondent No. 2’s [Twitter] conduct is clear from the fact that while the petitioner’s account was suspended for sharing a post/tweet by another user, no action has been taken against the user who wrote the original tweet. The same continues to be in public domain,” the plea said.

In October 2019, Twitter had suspended Hegde’s twitter account on finding that the use of an image of August Landmesser as his header image amounted to “hateful imagery” and violated the platform’s terms of use. Senior advocate’s account was restored the following day, only to be suspended again permanently on November 5.

Hegde, opposing the suspension, termed the act illegal and arbitrary. In his petition, Hegde further argued that the government has a positive obligation to ensure that rights guaranteed under the Constitution are not violated by private entities such as Twitter.

“Section 79 (2) (c) read with Section 87 (2) (zg) of the Information Technology Act authorizes the Central Government to prescribe guidelines to intermediaries.

In exercise of these powers, the Central Government has laid down various guidelines regarding when content is to be removed. However, no guidelines to ensure that legal speech is not censored have been laid down,” added the plea.

Appearing for the government, standing counsel Kirtiman Singh, said guidelines were already in place on the issue of censorship on social media.

The matter will be heard next on February 11.

Meanwhile, the draft rules for regulating social media has still not been finalised in the country.

Earlier in September, during the hearing of a Facebook plea seeking transfer of its many petitions from different High Courts to the Supreme Court, the apex court had expressed concerns over issues such as fake news, trolling and character assassination.

It had asked the government to file an affidavit within three weeks detailing the timeline for finalising the draft rules framed for regulating social media.

The government, in response, had sought three months time for notifying the final revised rules, making intermediaries more liable towards the content that is published and transmitted on their platform, by January 2020.

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Delhi HC seeks MeitY, Twitter response on plea to frame guidelines for censorship on social media

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