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Communal hashtags: Cannot be made liable for the content posted by users, Twitter responds to Telangana HC's notice

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Communal hashtags: Cannot be made liable for the content posted by users, Twitter responds to Telangana HCs notice
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Hyderabad: Social Media platform Twitter Inc. has contended before Telangana High Court that it is merely an intermediary and cannot be made liable for the content posted by its users, while responding to a plea filed against trending of "communal hashtags" on the platform.

The response was filed towards a notice issued by the court on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Advocate Khaja Aijazuddin, who argued that the microblogging site allowed posts against Muslims portraying them as Covid 19 transmitters. The Court had also issued notices to Union government and the Telangana state police.

In July, during the hearing of the case, the Court was informed that Twitter had removed all inflammatory contents including communal hashtags. However, the Court observed that mere removal of the impugned content is "not sufficient".

As the matter was listed for hearing today, the counsel for the website argued that it is incorporated under the laws of the United States of America and is not a 'State' within the meaning of Article 12 of the Indian Constitution. The counsel contended that the plea filed is not maintainable as Twitter, "does not perform any 'public function', contrary to what is alleged in the Petition. The nature of relationship between the Answering Respondent (Twitter) and the users on its platforms is contractual in nature. Thus even if the Answering Respondent provides a service to the public in a wider sense, there is no public law element involved in the enforcement of a private contract of service."

Advocate Khaja Aijazuddin sought time to file reply to Twitter's response and pleaded to direct the Union Cabinet Secretary and Union Home Secretary Government of India to file their counters. To this, the bench headed by Justice B Vijaysen Reddy said that counters from Union of India were not essential.

However, the petitioner said that the comprehensive prayer in the PIL was to set up a mechanism to prevent recurrence of communal hashtags in social media in the future.

The bench accepted the plea and directed the Additional Solicitor General of India to file counters on or before 18th of this month. The case was posted for 19th of this month for further hearing.

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TAGS:Twitter Communal hashtag Islamophobia Covid 19 
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