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PIL in Supreme Court to set up a mechanism to check fake news and hateful, seditious, instigating content on Twitter

Shruti Mahajan

A BJP leader, Vinit Goenka, has moved the Supreme Court seeking directions to the government to set up a mechanism to check advertisements and paid content on Twitter that may be hateful, inciting, or seditious.

Seeking directions for the Centre, Goenka says that a mechanism needs to be put in place to check that the contents of advertisements on Twitter and similar platforms are not "spreading hatred amongst the communities, seditious, instigative, separatist, hate filled, divisive against the society at large and against the spirit of the Union of India."

A representation to this effect was made by the petitioner earlier before the concerned authority seeking action against the social media giant, Twitter, but no action was taken on that front, it is said.

In the absence of a mechanism or a law to check online content, social media platforms such as Twitter and others have been used by some players to amplify and call out for activities that are against the spirit of the Union of India.

...said platform (Twitter) is being used to call upon separatist, creating panic in some sections of the society, challenging the unity, integrity and sovereignty of Union of India.
The petition states

The micro-blogging site is being used by the Separatists, the PIL contends and avers that Twitter has abated the act by accepting financial consideration and paid advertisements.

Citing examples of various terror groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, and also the Indian Mujahideen, the petitioner says that Twitter's platform has been used by the groups to avoid detection while circulating hate speeches.

In India, various fake and morphed videos have been circulated through Twitter, which led to communal strife in the country, it is submitted.

A lot of anti-India content is circulated on twitter by way of paid advertisements and it is then further re-tweeted by many others thereby giving this content larger traction.

This divisive content and its spread amounts to "waging a war against the Union of India and against the spirit of the sovereignty and integrity of India". Not just the person publishing such content, but the Indian representative of Twitter would also be responsible for the same, the PIL argues.

The petitioner invokes Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant of Civil and Personal Life to make a case for such content being barred under the International law also. He also cites the example of Germany where the Network Enforcement Act, 2017 was enacted to curb such content.

The petition further states,

"by circulating/promoting/advertising the said content or the similar content either through paid / promoted advertisements or otherwise through verified, non-verified handles and fake handles it becomes root cause of many divisions in society leading to riots, violence, disharmony in the society and challenges the sovereignty and integrity of the Union of India and also spoil the image of our nation in international forums and affect the international relations with many countries. Such content also radicalizes people and act as recruitment engines for waging wars against Union of India. (sic)"

Such content also violates the freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) as it promotes anti-India sentiment. Therefore, the petitioner has sought for the government to be directed to set up a mechanism which can check for such content on Twitter.

A law should be enacted as per which action can be initiated against those responsible for spreading such content, it is further prayed.

The petition is filed through Advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey.

Read Petition:

Vinit Goenka vs UOI petition (Twitter ads).pdf
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