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The Supreme Court bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose today directed transfer of all cases concerning regulation of social media pending in different High Courts.

The order in Facebook Inc v Union of India came after the court was informed by Attorney General KK Venugopal that State of Tamil Nadu was not opposed to the transfer petition. A petition in Madras High Court on linking of Aadhar with social media accounts is pending in Madras High Court.

Court observed that intermediaries cannot be forced to decrypt data on the sole ground that Section 69 of the Information Technology Act empowers government to decrypt data through intermediaries.

Senior Counsel Shyam Divan, representing the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) interjected on point, saying, “In a transfer petition, rights of citizens are trampled upon and later it becomes very difficult. It’s important that the Court refrains itself from making any observations and restricts to hearing the case on issue of transfer at this point.”

Social Media Regulations coming up in 3 months

Centre filed an affidavit in court yesterday seeking three months time to finalize and notify revised intermediary rules on the responsibilities of online intermediaries with respect to social media content, security and privacy of users and traceability of online crimes.

The affidavit, submitted by the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, acknowledges the “exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings, and other unlawful activities using Internet/Social media platforms,” thus identifying the internet as a “potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity,” with the “ever growing threats to individual rights and nation’s integrity, sovereignty, and security.”

Centre has proposed completion of the entire process by 15th January 2020.

Matter is thus listed for the last week of January 2020.

— India Legal Bureau

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