Social media: India

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Content removal requests

India and the world: 2006-18

Content removal requests received by social media from India and other countries- 2006-18
From: Oct 9, 2019: The Times of India

See graphic:

Content removal requests received by social media from India and other countries: 2006-18

Digital civility index


India on the Digital Civility Index, 2019
From: February 17, 2020: The Times of India

See graphic:

India on the Digital Civility Index, 2019

Government rules, regulations

The Feb 2021 rules

Pankaj Doval & Swati Mathur, February 26, 2021: The Times of India

The 2021 rules, regulations for Social media in India
From: Pankaj Doval & Swati Mathur, February 26, 2021: The Times of India

Reveal ‘originator’ of unlawful msg in 72 hrs, govt tells social media cos


New Delhi:

In a sweeping move, the government announced guidelines for social media, particularly giants such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, Instagram and Google, as also OTT platforms and digital media, bringing them under the purview of specific regulation for the first time.

Social media intermediaries have been split into two categories with the large ones expected to have higher compliance standards. Apart from appointing compliance and grievance officers, the new regulations mandate that social media and global internet giants will not be able to withhold the information on the source of unlawful and inflammatory messaging beyond 72 hours. They will need to be prompt in responding to requests of subscribers, especially women, on removal of objectionable content such as leakage of nudity or sexual acts. The platforms will now need to take down any “unlawful” content in a span of 36 hours.

UN report: Indian rules don’t conform with international norms

June 20, 2021: The Times of India

UN Special Rapporteurs have written to the Indian government saying that India’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, in their current form, do not conform with international human rights norms.

They also “recalled” in a report that restrictions to freedom of expression must never be invoked as a justification for the muzzling of any advocacy of multi-party democracy, democratic tenets and human rights. The report also said consultations with relevant stakeholders on the issue are essential in order to ensure the “final text is compatible with India’s international legal obligations”.

The observations were made in Mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.

The report said as a global leader in technology innovation, India has the potential to develop a legislation that can place it at the forefront of efforts to protect digital rights. However, the substantially broadened scope of the Rules is likely to do just the opposite, it said.

“We would therefore encourage the government to take all necessary steps to carry out a detailed review of the Rules”, the report said.

’S hut fake a/cs within 24 hrs of complaint’

Pankaj Doval, June 24, 2021: The Times of India

The rules as on 23 June 2021
From: Pankaj Doval, June 24, 2021: The Times of India

In a major decision that is likely to end the menace of impersonation on social media in India, the Centre has mandated that top companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have to remove accounts with fake profile pictures of known personalities and businesses, and even the general subscriber, within 24 hours of being notified of the same by the user or someone on his/her behalf.

The government has said that the mandate comes as part of the new IT Rules. Social media giants will thus need to act immediately after receiving a complaint. “For example, if a film actor, or a cricketer, or a politician, or any other user, objects to another person using his or her image/ picture to gain followers or to make their messaging more visible, or to carry out any illegal act, then they are within their right to ask the companies to take down the account. Provisions to this effect have been included in the new IT Rules for social media companies, and they have to take remedial action within a day after being notified by a user,” official sources told TOI.

Users’ knowledge about a verified account is limited

Impersonators are a major sore point for popular personalities, influencers, activists and even corporates/ businesses as they mimic a legitimate account for various reasons. These may range from pure-play parody accounts, to those created for doing mischief or a crime, or to carry out a financial fraud. Some such accounts are also created by fans of popular personalities, and some are also run through bots.

Apart from using an image of a popular personality as their profile picture, some fake account holders may also add their own image to a celebrity/politician’s picture by morphing the original content in order to claim proximity, and get favours.

All such accounts, while being fake, use a real picture or morphed images, and even carry content that is generally similar to the personality that they are targeting, a source said. The IT ministry’s diktat comes under the grievance redressal mechanism that has been prescribed for social media platforms, and makes it contingent on the firms to remove any content around nudity, obscenity, and sexual act or conduct within 24 hours after receiving a complaint.

The issue of fake accounts is a menace the world over and is believed to have caused losses to the tune of billions of dollars over the years, apart from leading to crimes of various types.

While it is a messy affair for personalities who often find themselves targeted through fake news, it is an even bigger nuisance for corporates and businesses who become a victim of impersonation. Often such fake accounts of corporates are used for phishing attacks, selling counterfeit products, and even scams. While many platforms like Twitter, Instagram and You-Tube verify accounts of known personalities, the fakes are also present in abundance, behaving almost as close to the real accounts as possible for most of the time. And with the wide footprint of social media companies across the length and breadth of the country, there are numerous instances where people fall prey to the fake accounts, primarily believing the pictures used on profile.

The knowledge around a verified account is also limited, and many users are not aware that a blue tick, like on Twitter, signifies a confirmed account. The new IT rules make a mention of giving users option to verify their accounts, but this been kept as a voluntary exercise. This mandate is for platforms which are seen as “significant social media intermediaries”, or those with over 50 lakh users.

Statutory officers

Pankaj Doval, June 14, 2021: The Times of India

Social media and Statutory officers, as requited in 2021 June
From: Pankaj Doval, June 14, 2021: The Times of India

Social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube will need to appoint statutory officers — in line with the new IT rules — on the payroll of the global headquarters, and not hire them as part of the Indian subsidiaries.

This has been prescribed as content handling, processing and moderation is a domain of the headquarters in the US for these companies, while their subsidiaries — such as in India — are mainly tasked with advertising, marketing and promotional activities. The officers also need to be residents of India, and have to have a local postal address. “They need to be in the local time zone, and not operate from any overseas location, including the US,” sources told TOI.

The new rules have ordered the companies to appoint three statutory officers in India for coordinating the gamut of content-related activities, and liaison with the government and their users/subscribers.

While the chief compliance officer shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the IT Act and Rules, the duty of the nodal contact person will be to ensure 24x7 coordination with law-enforcement agencies. The job of the grievance officer will be to handle complaints of users around content, and that person will be the local face of the HQs in India with the public at large.

According to the mandate under the new IT rules for intermediaries, the companies were asked to appoint the officers in India by May 26. While there was initially some reluctance and a delay in their appointment, most companies are now compliant (some such as Twitter have made contractual appointments for now as they look for permanent recruits).

The government believes that having representatives of the HQs in India will help in better coordination on contentrelated queries and demands, as previously there have been numerous cases of “inordinate delays” due to lack of a direct coordination with the team incharge of content.

“Previously, all the requests were being sent to the Indian offices, which couldn’t do much as they did not have any say on content-related matters. They would generally pass on the government or user complaints to the HQs which would take its own time in taking a decision. This would delay the whole process of compliance and any possible remedial action by days, and even weeks,” a source said.

When contacted, a spokesperson for Twitter refused to comment. “We do not have any comment to offer at this time.” A spokesperson for Google and YouTube said, “As applicable to us under the new IT rules, we have appointed three officers in India.” Questions sent to Facebook and its group companies WhatsApp and Instagram did not get any formal response.

Grievance redressal

2021, May-June: the 1st month of the new system

Pankaj Doval, July 16, 2021: The Times of India

Grievance redressal by social media in India in 2021, May-June: the 1st month of the new system
From: Pankaj Doval, July 28, 2021: The Times of India

Even as it faces government efforts to make it identify the original source of unlawful and inflammatory messaging, Facebook-owned instant messenger WhatsApp said on Thursday that it has banned over 20 lakh users in India during the month starting May 15, taking them down for “harmful behaviour”.

The company — which has been steadfast in its refusal to share the first source of illegal messages that have often been blamed by the government for incidents such as lynching and other crimes due to fake, viral messaging — said that its sweeping action was based on information gathered through technological tools and user feedback.

The action in India is significant because it is nearly one-fourth of the global bans that WhatsApp carries out in a month related to harmful behaviour.

The disclosure comes as part of the mandate under the new IT Rules, although the company has challenged the traceability provision in the Delhi high court.

Grievance officer got 345 complaints: WhatsApp

Earlier this month, WhatsApp’s parent Facebook had reported pulling down as many as 3.2 crore user posts in the same period, and these ranged from spam to adult nudity, bullying and harassment, and content around violent and graphic content. Both the reports, however, gave no data on censures over government orders, or requests by political parties.

WhatsApp said it deploys tools and resources to “prevent harmful behaviour” on the platform. "We are particularly focused on prevention because we believe it is much better to stop harmful activity from happening in the first place than to detect it after harm has occurred. The abuse detection operates at three stages of an account’s lifestyle: at registration; during messaging; and in response to negative feedback, which we receive in the form of user reports and blocks.”

The company said a “team of analysts augments these systems” to evaluate edge cases and help improve effectiveness over time.

It, however, insisted that person-to-person conversations on the platform are encrypted, and thus remain private. WhatsApp said it pays “close attention to user feedback” while also engaging with specialists in stemming misinformation, promoting cybersecurity, and preserving election integrity.

“We are an industry leader among end-to-end encrypted messaging services in preventing and combating abuse. In addition to our safety features and controls, we employ a team of engineers, data scientists, analysts, researchers, and experts in law enforcement, online safety, and technology developments to oversee these efforts. We enable users to block contacts and to report problematic content and contacts to us from inside the app.”

Apart from the bans, WhatsApp said its India grievance officer received 345 user complaints, including on issues such as account and product support, safety and ban appeal. It overturned 63 ban appeals.

Giving its report on user complaints, Facebook said it received 646 complaints in the same period, which included 198 related to ‘hacking of account’, 174 on ‘other issues’, 73 on ‘fake profile’, and 36 related to ‘nudity/partial nudity or in a sexual act’ heading. “Of these… we provided tools for users to resolve their issues in 363 cases… Of the other 297 reports where specialised review was needed, we reviewed content as per our policies. Of those, we took action on 47 pieces of content in total. The remaining 250 reports were reviewed but may not have been actioned due to the reasons explained above,” Facebook said.

Similarly, Instagram said that its grievance officer received 36 complaints in the period, including related to hacking of accounts (7), and ‘nudity/partial nudity or in a sexual act’ (25). “Of these incoming reports, we provided tools for users to resolve their issues in 10 cases.” Of the other, we took action on 20 pieces of content.

Information, account removal requests from govt


Anam Ajmal, February 11, 2021: The Times of India

Information, account removal requests from the Govt of India to FB, Twitter, 2019>2020
From: Anam Ajmal, February 11, 2021: The Times of India

India’s infor mation and account removal requests to Twitter shot up exponentially between Jan-June 2020 and Jan-Jun 2019. During the same period, legal information requests made to Facebook also jumped. So did the number of hours lost to internet shutdowns.

Information requests made to Twitter leapfrogged by 451%. Following such requests, the company has to reveal who operates a specific account. Overall, the government made 2,613 such requests, specifying 6,346 accounts, out of which Twitter complied with just 1%. Account removal requests also registered a 450% leap, as per statistics offered by the micro-blogging company. Since 2012, India has made 5,5000 requests for account withdrawals, out of which Twitter complied with 18.8% requests. These requests specified 29,213 accounts.

Legal information requests also showed a 57% vault though content restriction requests indicate a 34% fall.

Internet shutdowns also went up during this period, as per UK-based organisation Top10vpn’s annual report. In 2020, the number of hours lost (8,927) resulted in an estimated economic loss of $2.8 billion. The previous year, 4,196 hours were lost causing a projected loss of $1.3 billion. To put it in percentage, there was a 113% rise in the number of hours lost and a 115% rise in economic cost between 2019 and 2020. The report further assessed the global internet shutdown cost to be around $4 billion, with India accounting for nearly 70% of the total losses.

Between January and June 2020, India stood second after the US in the list of countries which wrote to Twitter for account information of users. Since 2012, India has made 5,877 information requests, specifying 19,8000 accounts from the microblogging platform. Almost half of these requests, 44.5% came in the first half of 2020.

During the same period, India sent Twitter 149 legal demands for action on verified accounts, including journalists and news outlets. About 142 demands were made by Turkey. Twitter withheld two tweets under Section 69A of the IT Act but said it did not act on the remaining demands since the accounts came under its “protected speech” policies.

India also made 35,560 requests, impacting 57,294 accounts, for user information from Facebook during January-June 2020, out of which Facebook complied with 50% requests. In the second half of 2019, India had made 26,698 requests for user information, out of which Facebook had complied with 57%. Globally, India was the second country with the maximum requests, after the US (57,910).

In the same period, Facebook also restricted access to 681 items in response to directions from the ministry of electronics and information technology for violating Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, including content against security of the state and public order.

 HC: Social media companies liable for their misuse

Sep 21, 2019: The Times of India

HC: Social media cos liable for their misuse


The Madras high court said that social media companies cannot avoid liability for damage to society caused by rumour and misinformation passed through their platforms and they need to be held more accountable for such misuse by users.

“Fake news, misinformation and hate speeches can reach hundreds of people and consequently have a psychological impact on them, leading to even unrest. Law and order would be disrupted. The platforms cannot avoid liability for the damage that has been caused through its use,” the court said.

A division bench made the observation on a plea by Antony Clement Rubin whose sought linking of Aadhaar with social media accounts to check cybercrime. The plea was later altered to ensure cooperation of social media firms in cybercrime probes.

The court, however, said in India the fundamental right to privacy was not absolute and that the “privacy doctrine cannot outweigh the greater impact on the peace of society”. Freedom of speech comes with responsibility, it added.

The bench adjourned the hearing to October 1.

The legal position

‘Intermediary’ status

Anam Ajmal, June 17, 2021: The Times of India

Several digital rights experts and technology lawyers have asserted that the Union government can't revoke Twitter’s “intermediary” status in case of non-compliance with the new IT Rules as they are protected by section 79 of the IT Act. The reactions came after the Ghaziabad police filed an FIR against the social media giant for disseminating a video of an elderly man who was allegedly beaten up by a group of people for his religion.

“The Centre understands that there is a legal issue here because even the IT minister has not said that Twitter is losing its intermediary status,” said Prasanna S, a lawyer who has represented petitioners in the Aadhaar privacy case in the Supreme Court.

According to Prasanna, Twitter can move the courts if they get a notice under section 41A of CRPC. “This FIR does not hold any ground. In all likelihood, there will be no investigation against Twitter. But if Twitter does get a notice, they can move the court to get the FIR quashed,” he added.

The new rules, notified on February 25 2021, were implemented a month later in March. According to the Centre, the rules were necessary to stop the menace of online misinformation, child sexual abuse material, among other things.

Delhi-based advocacy group Software Freedom Law Centre also explained that social media platforms, if held liable for user content, can only be tried on a case-to-case basis. “The term ‘intermediary’ is defined under Section 2(w) of the Information Technology Act, 2000... Twitter is an intermediary as per the IT Act and this status cannot be taken away,” said SFLC legal director Prasanth Sugathan.

Sugathan said the protection under section 79 of the IT Act is conditional upon the intermediary observing due diligence while discharging duties under the Act and observing guidelines prescribed by the central government. “As far as the safe harbour protection is concerned, it is for the courts to determine and not for the government to declare. Twitter has stated that it has taken various measures to comply with the 2021 Rules... It would be best left to the courts to decide whether these measures are sufficient to comply with the rules,” he said. According to digital expert Kazim Rizvi, only courts can decide the extent of intermediary protection. “...Any coverage that Twitter is liable for content put out by its users is an incorrect interpretation of the law,” he said.

The networks used most frequently

FB, Twitter users are more trusting/ 2011

The Times of India, June 18, 2011

A study has found that people who use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are more trusting. The study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project surveyed the emotional lives and engagement of US social networking fans. The report found them to be more trusting, more socially and politically engaged and to have a better sense of wellbeing than those who don’t participate in online social networks.


The social networks used most frequently in India, 2016-18
From: January 25, 2019: The Times of India

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The social networks used most frequently in India, 2016-18

Social media and the law

Abusive posts

Abusive posts should be punished: SC/ 2023

AmitAnand Choudhary, August 19, 2023: The Times of India

New Delhi : Observing that one has to face consequences for abusive and vulgar posts on social media and an apology would not be enough to waive criminal proceedings, the Supreme Court refused to quash the trial against actor and former Tamil Nadu MLAS Ve Shekher for sharing a post that made indecent remarks against women journalists.

The court dismissed the petition filed by the 72-yearold actor. Multiple cases were lodged against Shekher in TN after he shared the post on Facebook. Shekher’s lawyer said the actor had deleted the post after realising the mistake and had also tendered an unconditional apology. He also submitted that the actor, who has a wide following on social media, shared someone else’s post inadvertently without reading it as his vision was blurred at that time.

SC: Facebook, WhatsApp not to share users’ data with third parties

AmitAnand Choudhary, Vow you won't share users' data, SC tells tech giants , September 7, 2017: The Times of India

The Supreme Court asked online behemoths Facebook and WhatsApp to file an affidavit assuring that they will not share data of their users with a third party until the Centre framed a law for data protection.

A five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, justices A K Sikri, Amitava Roy , A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar granted the companies four weeks to file the affidavit. The bench said it will examine their response and decide whether interim order is required to restrain sharing data with a third party .

The Centre is framing a law on data protection in the light of the recent judgment of the SC pronouncing the right to privacy as a fundamental right in which it had left it to the government to frame a legislation.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar, appearing for the multi-national companies, denied allegations of sharing of data with any third party . They contended that two billion people used WhatsApp but none, except two students who filed petition, had complained about violation of privacy .

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the bench at the outset of proceedings that an expert committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of former apex court judge Justice B N Srikrishna by Centre to identify key data protection issues in India and file a draft bill on data protection law. He pleaded the court defer the hearing till the Centre framed the law.

Agreeing with his submission, the bench deferred the hearing on a petition challenging WhatsApp's 2016 privacy policy and fixed the matter for hearing on November 20. It, however, said that the data of users should be protected in the interim period and asked the companies to give the undertaking.


May 26, 2021: The Times of India

First, what’s a social media intermediary?

A social media platform, whether Facebook or Twitter or Koo, does not generate any content of its own. It is a platform for members to post content. To that end, these companies function as intermediaries between the content creator and the consumer.

The government defines social media intermediaries in the 2021 guidelines: “A ‘social media intermediary’ means an intermediary which primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or more users and allows them to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services”.

It also defines a “significant social media intermediary” as having a “number of registered users in India above such threshold as notified by the Central Government”. That number is 50 lakh today, so any social media intermediary with more than 50 lakh registered users is a significant social media intermediary. The difference between ‘social media intermediaries’ and ‘significant social media intermediaries’ is important because the latter have to follow more stringent rules.

What are the new guidelines governing these intermediaries?

First, an overview. On 25 February, the ministry of electronics and information technology issued new guidelines for social media companies and other digital media platforms. These guidelines replace those issued in 2011, and are more stringent regarding the grievance redressal mechanism and government compliance to be followed by these platforms. The platforms were told to comply with the new guidelines within three months of the notification – May 25. A look at some of the more significant requirements:

Due diligence: Among other things, the new guidelines require all social media intermediaries to prominently publish “the rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement for access or usage of its computer resource by any person”. Intermediaries are supposed to ensure that their rules and regulations are clear and unambiguous in preventing users from sharing harmful or dangerous content.

Takedown norms: “Unlawful information”, or anything that impacts the “security of the State; friendly relations with foreign States; public order; decency or morality; in relation to contempt of court; defamation; incitement to an offence relating to the above, or any information which is prohibited under any law for the time being in force” should not be saved by the intermediary. If such information is saved (in this context, that means up on the concerned app or site), the intermediary must take it down within 36 hours of receiving a court order or “on being notified by the Appropriate Government or its agency, as the case may be”.

Compliance reports: Significant social media intermediaries will have to publish a monthly compliance report that spells out the complaints received and resolved in that month.

Appointments: Significant social media intermediaries are required to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, “a nodal contact person for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies and officers” (this person cannot be the compliance officer), and a resident grievance officer. All three persons need to be resident in India, and these are three separate positions and cannot be held by one person.

Grievance redressal: So far, user complaints were supposed to be resolved within a month; under the new rules, the grievance officer needs to acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days.

Voluntary verification: Significant social media intermediaries are also supposed to allow users the option to voluntarily verify their accounts. Verified users are to be given “a demonstrable and visible mark of verification, which shall be visible to all users of the service.”

Is there anything that users should be aware of?

Any significant social media intermediary that provides a messaging service will have to identify the “first originator of the information” on its system, and if required by law, must share this with the authorities. The guidelines add that “no significant social media intermediary shall be required to disclose the contents of any electronic message”. It spells out the reasons for making such a request – security, children’s safety, etc. Interestingly, the guidelines add that where the actual first originator is located outside India, “the first originator of that information within the territory of India shall be deemed to be the first originator of the information for the purpose of this clause.”

The Internet Freedom Foundation, in a series of tweets, has explained why this will impact end-to-end encryption and privacy of individuals. It says that under the Information Technology Decryption Rules, the government can demand the content of messages.

So, does all this mean that Facebook and Twitter will go offline now?

Apart from Koo, no social media intermediary seems to have announced compliance to the new guidelines. Technically, all these intermediaries will not be made to go offline; the guidelines only say that: “Where an intermediary fails to observe these rules, the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 79 of the Act shall not be applicable to such intermediary and the intermediary shall be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force including the provisions of the Act and the Indian Penal Code”

The Act referred to here is the Information Technology Act, and the relevant section states that “an intermediary shall not be liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him.” What that basically means is that any platform that does not implement all the steps laid out in the guidelines will now be held liable for what people share on the platform. Given the kind of information that’s shared on social media, these intermediaries could be looking at centuries of litigation if they are held liable for what subscribers say.

WhatsApp group admins not liable for members’ posts: HC

Vaibhav Ganjapure , April 27, 2021: The Times of India

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court has ruled that WhatsApp group admins can’t be held liable for objectionable content posted by a member unless it is proved there was common intention or a pre-arranged plan between them.

“In the absence of a specific penal provision creating vicarious liability, the administrator can’t be held liable for objectionable content posted by a member. Common intention can’t be established in the case of WhatsApp service users merely acting as administrators,” the division bench of Justices Zaka Haq and Amir Borkar said.

Quashing a complaint against a man from Maharashtra’s Gondia for alleged sexual harassment under Section 354-A(1)(iv), read along with Sections 509 and 107 of the IPC and Section 67 of the IT Act, 2000, the bench said a group admin doesn’t have power to regulate, moderate or censor the content before it is posted.

“The administrators are the ones who create the group by adding/deleting the members. Every group has one or more administrators, who control members’ participation. A group administrator has limited power of removing/adding the members. Once the group is created, the administrators’ and members’ functions are at par with each other, except addition/ deletion powers. But, if a member posts any objectionable content, s/he can be held liable under relevant provisions of law,” the court said.

Petitioner Kishor Tarone had moved court after a woman accused him, the admin of a WhatsApp group, of not removing a member who had used obscene language against her. She also alleged that the petitioner failed to ask the member to apologise and instead expressed helplessness.

The judges said when a person creates a WhatsApp group, they can’t be expected to presume or to have advance knowledge of any illegal intent of a member. “In our opinion, in the facts of present case, nonremoval of a member or failure to seek apology from him, who had posted the objectionable remark, would not amount to making sexually coloured remarks by the administrator.”

Common intention can’t be established in the case of WhatsApp service users merely acting as administrators

-Nagpur bench, Bombay HC


Dec 29, 2021: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has held the Bombay High Court's judgment delivered earlier this year in the WhatsApp group administrator case. The court held that a WhatsApp group administrator cannot be made liable for offensive content posted by the members of the group.

Justice G R Swaminathan directed the Karur district police to delete the name of an advocate, who was an admin of a WhatsApp group called Karur lawyers. The bench said that the lawyer R Rajendra should not be made the face of the criminal proceedings if he had only played the role of a group administrator.

The court further added that Rajendran can be held liable if the police find any other evidence or material against him.

Earlier this year Bombay High Court gave a judgment that reads, "A group administrator has limited power of removing a member of the group or adding other members of the group...The administrator of a WhatsApp group does not have power to regulate, moderate or censor the content before it is posted on the group. But, if a member of the WhatsApp group posts any content, which is actionable under law, such person can be held liable under relevant provisions of law. In the absence of specific penal provision creating vicarious liability, an administrator of a WhatsApp group cannot be held liable for objectionable content posted by a member of a group. A group administrator cannot be held vicariously liable for an act of a member of the group, who posts objectionable content, unless it is shown that there was common intention or pre-arranged plan acting in concert pursuant to such plan by such member of a WhatsApp group and the administrator."

In the present case, some 'highly offensive' posts were shared in a group chat by a member of a group Pachaiyappan. After this incident, he was removed from the group and was later re-inducted as a member again. As a result of this incident, another member of the group, also a lawyer, filed a complaint with Thanthonimalai police and a case was registered in August 2020.

The FIR filed also included Rajendran's name and he then moved to the high court for quashing the FIR.

2021 May: legal shield removed

Pankaj Doval , May 26, 2021: The Times of India

Large social-media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, You-Tube, Instagram, and WhatsApp lose legal protection for the user content posted on their platforms from today, and stand answerable to Indian civil and criminal laws just like any other ordinary citizen or local entity.

Till May 25, 2021, they enjoyed immunity when it came to the content posted by any third-party user on their platforms. The only obligation on them was to take down any illegal content that they noticed on their own, or when it was highlighted to them by the state, or the courts, or any responsible/aggrieved party. Now it’s a civil and criminal liability on them for any illegal post, be it in words, or a picture or a video.

The companies, clearly unnerved by the new rules for large social-media intermediaries – that were announced on February 25 this year – may opt for a legal challenge to protect their officials as well as operations in India, in case the government does not grant an extension in implementation of the norms (they were given three months to prepare for the new regime). “However, a constructive dialogue with the government still remains to be the first choice, and any decision to approach the courts comes in only later,” company officials told TOI, on condition of anonymity.

However, the government’s stand in recent months related to the content posted on social media platforms (some related to posts around farmers protests and around seemingly inept handling of second wave of Covid-19) leaves the companies very vulnerable to legal action, industry analysts say.

Any inflammatory or illegal comment on their platforms, which has the capacity to disturb public order, among other such disturbances, could mean that the companies may be dragged to the court or face police complaint. If found guilty, a company faces financial penalty while their top officers run the risk of imprisonment.

Sender responsible for consequences of online posts: HC, 2023

July 16, 2023: The Times of India

Chennai : The Madras high court has refused to quash a 2018 criminal case against Tamil actor S Ve Shekher for allegedly circulating “abusive, derogatory and vulgar” social media comments showing women journalists in poor light, saying such posts are like “arrows shot from the bow” with consequences that the sender must face. 

“A message sent/forwarded becomes permanent evidence and it is almost impossible to wriggle out of the consequence that falls out (of that),” Justice N Anand Venkatesh said in his order.

Shekher had deleted the messages the same day and apologised but the court said that the posts had set off demonstrations in front of his house and led to violence. 
The judge observed that once a post is sent, the sender must take ownership for the consequences of the damage done by that “arrow (message)”. It becomes “very difficult to wriggle out by issuing an apology” the HC added.

In this case, the message forwarded by Shekher did cause insult to journalists, particularly women scribes, and provoked breach of public peace, the HC said. 

Prima facie, the offence under Section 504 (Intentionally insulting a person to break public peace) of IPC is made out, Justice Venkatesh said. 

Multiple complaints were filed against Shekher in Chennai, Karur and Tirunelveli after he circulated the post on his social media account on April 19, 2018.

See also

Facebook in India

Personal tools