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Delhi High Court reserves verdict on plea against Facebook to stop hateful content against Rohingyas

The Delhi High Court today reserved its judgment in a public interest litigation (PIL) against Meta, formerly Facebook, to immediately take measures to stop use of its algorithmic features that allegedly promote hateful and harmful content against the Rohingya community.

The PIL has been moved by two Rohingya refugees, Mohammad Hamim and Kawsar Mohammed. They fled Myanmar due to ethnic violence and have been residing in Delhi for the last 2 to 5 years. 

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora reserved its verdict and indicated that it will either direct the plea to be treated as a representation to the Union Government or will give liberty to the petitioners to approach Facebook with their grievances. 

The Delhi High Court verbally remarked that the plea has been filed by someone without reading the Information Technology Rules, 2021 and that it does not refer either to the said rules or guidelines on the subject. The court also added that the petitioner did not give prior notice to the Centre thereby highlighting that proper procedure must have been followed before filing the PIL. 

The bench also noted that the petitioners should have filed a civil suit for better adjudication of the matter and that filing a writ petition under Article 226 of Constitution of India is not the appropriate remedy.

Appearing for Facebook, Senior Advocate Arvind P. Datar submitted that the Central Government has enacted the IT Rules of 2021 which has put in place a three tier system to tackle offending posts, including hate speeches, on social media platforms.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioner contended that Facebook, as a social media platform, abets as well as magnifies and spreads hateful content against the Rohingya community. He further alleged that Facebook is the propagator of hate speech. 

Responding to Advocate Gonsalves allegations, the bench responded that today free speech is also at a higher pedestal and abuse on social media is paramount today. The bench added that today injunction orders are passed in favour of private individuals and against social media platforms, including dynamic and dynamic plus injunctions in civil suits.

It said that the top court is dealing with all this on the original side and there is a whole lot of jurisdiction with this. It underlined that the court had taken action against cyber lockers and injunctions have been passed.

Subsequently, Senior Advocate Datar sought dismissal of the plea by submitting that no reference has been made in it as to how the guidelines put in by the social media platform are ineffective. He also submitted that the plea does not mention any averment to prove how Facebook magnifies or abets the hateful content and how the State is a silent spectator.

After hearing both the submissions, the Delhi High Court bench said that it will pass orders in the matter.

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