Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Google ducks under search engine cover, tells court it’s not a ‘social media intermediary’

Google has contended that the new IT rules for digital media in India are not applicable to its search engine

Amid speculations over-tightening noose around the global IT companies operating in India, technology giant Google has contended that the new IT rules for digital media in India are not applicable to its search engine, and urged the Delhi high court on Wednesday to set aside its single judge order which applied them on the company while dealing with an issue related to the removal of offending content from the internet.

The single-judge bench order had come while dealing with a matter in which a woman’s photographs were uploaded on a pornographic website by some miscreants and despite court orders, the content could not be removed in entirety from the World Wide Web and “errant parties merrily continued” to re-post and redirect it to other sites.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh has issued notice to the Centre, Delhi government, Internet Service Providers Association of India, Facebook, the pornographic site and the woman, on whose plea the single judge’s ruling had come, and sought their responses to Google’s plea by July 25.

The court in its order said it was not going to issue any interim order at this stage after Google told the bench that it was an intermediary, but not a social media intermediary, and sought protection against any coercive action for non-compliance of the template or guidelines laid down by the single judge.

The global technology giant had also sought removal of the observation by the single judge that it was a social media intermediary. Google contended that the single judge, in his April 20 judgement, “mischaracterised” its search engine as a ‘social media intermediary’ or ‘significant social media intermediary’ as provided under the new rules.

“The single judge has misinterpreted and misapplied the New Rules 2021 to the appellant’s search engine. Additionally, the single judge has conflated various sections of the IT Act and separate rules prescribed thereunder and has passed template orders combining all such offences and provisions, which is bad in law,” Google has said in its appeal against the April 20 judgement.

According to the template framed by the single judge, when such matters related to offending content come before a court and it is satisfied that an immediate redressal was required at the interim stage, it may issue a direction to the website where the objectionable material is hosted to remove the same forthwith and maximum within 24 hours of receiving the judicial order.

“A direction should also be issued to the website or online platform on which the offending content is hosted to preserve all information and associated records relating to the offending content, so that evidence in relation to the offending content is not vitiated, at least for a period of 180 days or such longer period as the court may direct, for use in investigation,” the court had said.

It had also said a direction should be issued to the search engine(s) to disabled access to the offending content by ‘de-indexing’ and ‘dereferencing’ it in their listed search results and the intermediary ought to comply with such a direction within 24 hours of receiving the same.


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