Supreme Court fined Google, Facebook and Microsoft for not curbing sexually explicit contents on Social Media

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Supreme Court on Monday, 21 May 2018 showed its disappointment over the delaying tactics of the social media giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft being unable to take any concrete measures in preventing the usage of the social media platforms to upload videos of child porn, gang rapes and child pornography. The social media networks were severely chastised by the Supreme Court and a hefty fine of Rs. 1,00,000 was imposed on each of them.

Facts of the case

In the year 2015 the Hyderabad-based NGO Prajwala sent a letter to erstwhile Chief Justice of India,  H L Dattu detailing the horrific events of graphic videos of gang rapes and child pornography being uploaded to various social media platforms (such as Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube) and re-distributed via the Internet. The NGO also sent a pen drive containing two such rape videos circulating in YouTube and urged the Supreme Court to take action against the perpetrators of such monstrous crimes.

The Apex Court understood the gravity of the situation and took suo motu cognizance of the case thereby setting up a committee (Ajith Kumar committee) in March 2017 to review the matter and report the same to the Supreme Court. The committee after reviewing the situation submitted two volumes of a comprehensive report to the Court and made 11 proposals to curb the prevalent crimes of uploading and distributing indecent graphic videos of child pornography, gang rapes and child sexual assault videos.

Court ruling

The Apex Court received the report from the Ajith Kumar committee about their investigations into the matter and listened to their recommendations regarding their experiences with the various social media giants in search of effective ways to deal with the heinous crime. The Court further directed the various social media networks on their April 16, 2018, notice to comply with the proposals of the committee and to report the progress to the Supreme Court. But the Court observed that “none of these entities (Yahoo, Facebook Ireland, Facebook India, Google India, Google Inc., Microsoft and WhatsApp) has filed anything to show us the progress nor any of these entities is ready with any response pursuant to our aforesaid order.”

It was simply disheartening for the Apex Court that the social media giants did not cooperate with the Ajith Kumar committee’s recommendations nor did they show any serious inclinations to address this grave issue. Hence the Division Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and UU Lalit of the Supreme Court ruled, “these entities to file an affidavit on or before 15th June 2018 giving us the status of the progress made. The Registry will accept the affidavit filed by these entities along with costs of Rs.1 lac each.”

The Supreme Court also rebuked the government for failing to complete all the necessary tasks required to launch the Online Cyber Crime reporting portal and remarked, “in our opinion, more than sufficient time has been taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs to complete these tasks and to complete other tasks. However, time is granted to the Ministry of Home Affairs to complete the tasks on or before 30th June 2018.” The Apex Court stated that the matter will be heard next on July 2, 2018, by which time it expected the state measures regarding the compliance with the Ajith Kumar committee report and the required ‘tasks’ needed for a fully functioning cybercrime reporting portal to be in place.

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