The Supreme Court today issued notice to Twitter and the Central government on a petition asking for a mechanism to check fake news and hate messages, seditious and incendiary content on Twitter and other social media platforms.
The SC bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde while issuing the notice sought their response on the plea and tagged it along with similar pending plea.
It stated that 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 persons to “amplify and call out for activities that are against the spirit of the Union of India”.
BJP leader Vinit Goenka had filed the petition in May last year, asking for a mechanism to check Twitter content and advertisements spreading hatred through fake news and instigative messages though fake accounts.
The petition said there were hundreds of fake twitter handles and Facebook accounts in the name of eminent people and dignitaries and he had sought action, but none was taken. Social media accounts were used by political parties to “tarnish the image of opponents”, particularly during elections, the BJP leader said.
The top court heard the petition at a time the government has been pressing Twitter to block nearly 1,100 accounts and posts that it says have been spreading misinformation and provocative content linked to the farmer protests against central agricultural laws since November.
The SC notice comes amid an ongoing tussle between the Centre and Twitter. On Thursday, Twitter had taken down over 97% of the handles that the IT ministry had sought to be censured for carrying “inflammatory content” related to farm protests such as ‘farmers’ genocide’ hashtag and accounts backed by Pakistan and Khalistan sympathisers.
Information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had rebuked Twitter on Thursday and said social media platforms cannot give differential treatment while handling problems on Capitol Hill and the Red Fort.
The government, he said, was committed to freedom of media and rights of individuals but it was equally concerned about safety, security, and law and order in the country.
“Please don’t spread enmity, violence and misinformation. Please follow the Constitution of India and the law of the land (otherwise we will be very strict),” he said replying to a question in Rajya Sabha.
“Today I want to clearly state that be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp they are free to work in India but they need to abide by the Constitution of India and laws of India,” the minister said in the Rajya Sabha.