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Twitter not bothered about sensitivities of people in other religions, says Delhi HC – The Indian Express

The Delhi High Court on Monday criticised Twitter for not acting fast enough to block the account of an atheistic organisation accused of repeatedly posting blasphemous content about a Hindu deity.
The court observed that the social media website would have been more sensitive had the content been about “another religion”, and told the company to show it the law that states action against offensive tweets can only be taken following a court order.
“It is ultimately boiling down to this that people you feel sensitive about…about the content, you will block them (but) you are not bothered about sensitivities of other people in other regions of the world, of other ethnicities. We dare say that if the same kind of thing were to be done in relation to another religion, you would be much more careful and sensitive,” the High Court said.
The Division Bench of acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla directed the Centre to examine the tweets in question and other allegedly offensive posts by the user to see if those could be blocked under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. The Bench also ordered the @atheistrepublic account to disclose its location and other information about itself.

The directives were issued after the court heard a petition seeking the removal of the allegedly objectionable content about goddess Kali posted by @atheistrepublic.
The Bench had posed two questions to Twitter — a. Is there any obligation on its part to keep a watch on its users and find out if they are posting something offensive; b. Is it supposed to block an account in case of repeated complaints or only remove content every time there is a complaint?
In response, the social media company said it had removed six of the account’s tweets and an FIR had been registered by the police in Karnataka. But, questioning Twitter’s submission that it cannot block an account without a court order, the Bench asked, “If this is the logic, why have you blocked Mr Trump?”
The court went on to say, “We would like you to show us that (you can act) only when there is a court order … which means that you will not use your own sense of judgement, your intellect, when you find something absolutely, brazenly blasphemous or brazenly offending the sentiments of the people.”
Taking note of the fact that Twitter had previously blocked accounts of public figures, the Division Bench directed the website to place on record its policy on the circumstances in which it takes such action. The court also noted that Twitter has to comply with guidelines under IT Rules, 2021.
“Since (Twitter) has not questioned the prima facie view of this court with regard to nature and content of the offending posts of @atheistrepublic, in our view (Twitter) should have on its own, without waiting for today’s hearing, taken down the posts which were pointed by the petitioner as early as on 9th December, 2021,” the Bench added.
Earlier, petitioner Aditya Singh Deshwal, an advocate, told the court that Twitter was twice intimated about the tweets under scrutiny before the case was filed. He submitted that Twitter was required to observe due diligence under the new IT Rules. Even the website’s guidelines bar hateful content on its platform, the petitioner added.
The Centre told the Bench that orders to block tweets are issued when a user continuously posts offensive content. The government also submitted that Twitter blocks accounts on its own based on users’ complaints.
A lawyer representing @atheistrepublic told the court that the latest IT Rules were under challenge before the judiciary and provided an undertaking that similar offensive material would not be posted by the account till the matter was before the court.

“We direct her to place on record on affidavit the status of @atheistrepublic, namely its constitution; its location; whether it is having any place of business in India and also place on record the particulars of its officers/representative situated in India,” said the Bench.
The court had first directed Twitter to remove the allegedly objectionable content on October 29. At the time, a Division Bench headed by then Chief Justice DN Patel told the social media company to accord importance to people’s sentiments and remove the content.
The matter will be heard next on September 6.
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