Welcome to our fortnightly newsletter, where our Editors put together handpicked stories from the world of tech law! You can find other issues here.
Delhi HC orders social media platforms to take down sexual harassment allegations against artist
The Delhi High Court ordered Facebook, Google and Instagram to remove search result, posts and any content containing allegations of sexual harassment against artist Subodh Gupta. These include blocking/removal of social media posts, articles and Google Search result links. The allegations were made about a year ago, by an unknown co-worker of Gupta on an anonymous Instagram account ‘Herdsceneand’. These allegations were also posted on Facebook and circulated by news reporting agencies. An aggrieved Subodh Gupta then filed a civil defamation suit, stating these allegations to be false and malicious. Noting the seriousness of the allegations, the Court passed an ex-parte order asking the Instagram account holder, Instagram, Facebook and Google to take down this content. The Court has now directed Facebook to produce the identity of the person behind the account ‘Herdsceneand’ in a sealed cover.
- Trisha Jalan, Right to be Forgotten: Delhi HC orders Google, Facebook to remove sexual harassment allegations against Subodh Gupta from search results, Medianama (1 October 2019).
- Akshita Saxen, Delhi HC Orders Facebook, Google To Take Down Posts Alleging Sexual Harassment by Artist Subodh Gupta [Read Order], LiveLaw.in (30 September 2019).
- Aditi Singh, Delhi HC now directs Facebook to reveal identity of person behind anonymous sexual harassment allegations against Subodh Gupta, Bar & Bench (10 October 2019).
- The Wire Staff, Subodh Gupta Files Rs. 5-Crore Defamation Suit Against Anonymous Instagram Account, The Wire (1 October 2019)
- Dhananjay Mahapatra, ‘MeToo’ can’t become a ‘sullying you too’ campaign: Delhi HC, Times of India (17 May 2019).
- Devika Agarwal, What Does ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Mean in the Context of the #MeToo Campaign, Firstpost (19 June 2019).
Petition filed in Kerala High Court seeking a ban on ‘Telegram’
A student from National Law School of India, Bengaluru filed a petition in the Kerala high court seeking a ban on the mobile application – Telegram. The reason cited for this petition is that the app has no checks and balances in place. There is no government regulation, no office in place and the lack of encryption keys ensures that the person sending the message can not be traced back. It was only in June this year that telegram refused to hand over the chat details of the ISIS module to the National Investigation Agency. As compared to apps such as Watsapp, Telegram has a greater degree of secrecy. One of the features Telegram boasts of is the ‘secret chat’ version which notifies users if someone has taken a screenshot, disables the user from forwarding of messages etc. Further, there are fewer limits on the number of people who can join a channel and this makes moderation on the dissemination of information even more difficult. It is for this reason that telegram is dubbed as the ‘app of choice’ for many terrorists. It is also claimed that the app is used for transmitting vulgar and obscene content including child pornography. Several countries such as Russia and Indonesia have banned this app due to safety concerns.
- Soumya Tiwari, Petition in Kerala High Court seeks ban on Telegram, cites terrorism and child porn, Medianama (7 October 2019).
- Brenna Smith, Why India Should Worry About the Telegram App, Human Rights Centre (17 February 2019).
- Benjamin M., Why Are So Many Countries Banning Telegram?, Dogtown Media (11 May 2019).
- Vlad Savov, Russia’s Telegram ban is a big convoluted mess, The Verge (17 April 2018).
- Megha Mandavia, Kerala High Court seeks Centre’s views on plea to ban Telegram app, The Economic Times (4 October 2019).
- Livelaw News Network, Telegram Promotes Child Pornography, Terrorism’ : Plea In Kerala HC Seeks Ban On Messaging App, Livelaw.in (2 October 2019).
ECJ rules that Facebook can be ordered to take down content globally
In a significant ruling, the European Court of Justice ruled that Facebook can be ordered to take down posts globally, and not just in the country that makes the request. It extends the reach of the EU’s internet-related laws beyond its own borders, and the decision cannot be appealed further. The ruling stemmed from a case involving defamatory comments posted on the platform about an Austrian politician, following which she demanded that Facebook erase the original comments worldwide and not just from the Austrian version worldwide. The decision raises the question of jurisdiction of EU laws, especially at a time when countries are outside the bloc are passing their own laws regulating the matter.
- Adam Satariano, Facebook Can Be Forced to Delete Content Worldwide, E.U.’s Top Court Rules, The New York Times (3 October 2019).
- Chris Fox, Facebook can be ordered to remove posts worldwide, BBC News (3 October 2019).
- Makena Kelly, Facebook can be forced to remove content internationally, top EU court rules, The Verge (3 October 2019).
- Facebook must delete defamatory content worldwide if asked, DW (3 October 2019).
USA and Japan sign Digital Trade Agreement
The Digital Trade Agreement was signed by USA and Japan on October 7, 2019. The Agreement is an articulation of both the nations’ stance against data localization. The trade agreement cemented a cross-border data flow. Additionally, it allowed for open access to government data through Article 20. Articles 12 and 13 ensures no restrictions of electronic data across borders. Further, Article 7 ensures that there are no customs on digital products which are electronically transmitted. Neither country’s parties can be forced to share the source code while sharing the software during sale, distribution, etc. The first formal articulation of the free flow of digital information was seen in the Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT), which was a key feature of the Osaka Declaration on Digital Economy. The agreement is in furtherance of the Trump administration’s to cement America’s standing as being tech-friendly, at a time when most other countries are introducing reforms to curb the practices of internet giants like Google and Facebook, and protect the rights of the consumers. American rules, such as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shields companies from any lawsuits related to content moderation. America, presently appears to hope that their permissive and liberal laws will become the framework for international laws.
- Aditi Agarwal, USA, Japan sign Digital Trade Agreement, stand against data localisation, Medianama (9 October 2019).
- U.S.-Japan Digital Trade Agreement Text, Office of the United States Trade Representative (7 October 2019).
- Paul Wiseman, US signs limited deal with Japan on ag, digital trade,Washington Post (8 October 2019).
- FACT SHEET U.S.-Japan Digital Trade Agreement, Office of the United States Trade Representative (7 October 2019).
- David McCabe and Ana Swanson, U.S. Using Trade Deals to Shield Tech Giants From Foreign Regulators, The New York Times (7 October 2019).