Alphabet Inc’s Google on Wednesday moved the Delhi High Court, saying that the new Information Technology rules for digital media were not applicable to the search engine, Live Law reported.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh heard the company’s plea to set aside a single-judge bench order which applied the guidelines while dealing with a case related to removal of offensive content.
In April, a petitioner had told Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani that her photographs were taken from her Facebook and Instagram accounts without her consent and uploaded on a pornographic website. While issuing a slew of directions to deal with the complications in removing the content, the judge classified Google as a “social media intermediary” as provided under the new rules, according to Live Law.
“The single judge has misinterpreted and misapplied the New Rules 2021 to the appellant’s search engine,” Google said in its appeal against the April 20 judgement. “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.”
Advocate Harish Salve sought interim protection from any coercive action which may be taken against the company’s failure to remove such posts. “Firstly, we are a search engine and not a social media intermediary so we are not covered under the definition of Significant Social Media Intermediary in the IT Rules, 2021,” he said.
The advocate also argued that a blanket order to remove content globally cannot be issued.
The Delhi High Court, however, said that it was not going to issue any interim order at this stage. The judges issued notice to the Centre, the Delhi government, the Internet Service Providers Association of India, Facebook, the pornographic site and the woman, on whose plea the single judge’s ruling had come. The court sought their responses to Google’s plea by July 25.
A sweeping set of rules were issued on February 25 to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content. The new rules virtually bring these platforms, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision.
Among other things, the “Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021” regulations require these platforms to appoint chief compliance officers, in order to make sure the rules are followed, nodal officers, to coordinate with law enforcement agencies, and grievance officers. It also requires social media platforms with over 50 lakh users to help in identifying the “originator” of messages upon the government’s request.