Supreme Court: Give status of social media accountability norms: Supreme Court

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NEW DELHI|BENGALURU: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the government about the status of draft intermediary guidelines on social media accountability, and deferred the matter related to linking of Aadhaar with user accounts of Facebook and other online platforms to September 24.

Justice Deepak Gupta asked the government for its stance on the issue and the draft intermediary guidelines, stressing that the matter needs to be decided as early as possible. He said the court may give more time if the Union of India is considering framing something in the near future.

Draft amendments to the intermediary guidelines, which make social media companies more accountable for content posted on their platforms, were released by the government last year but have not been finalised yet.

The court reiterated that it will only hear a transfer petition at this point and not the merits of the case. In August, Facebook and WhatsApp sought the transfer of four similar petitions on linking social media accounts with Aadhaar from various high courts to the apex court.

The Tamil Nadu government has requested Supreme Court to permit Madras High Court to continue hearing and decide on a case related to social media platforms sharing information on origins of messages with the state. The court ordered all applications to be listed for September 24.

The transfer petition was listed before a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Gupta and Aniruddha Bose. Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi appeared for WhatsApp and Facebook, respectively. The Union government was represented by solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who said it is not opposed to transferring all cases to the Supreme Court.

He added the high courts had spent a lot of time on the matter already. The petition in the Madras High court was filed by Antony Clement Rubin in July last year, seeking the linking of Aadhaar with social media user profiles for authentication of identity. A division bench of the Madras High Court has since expanded the scope of the petition to include issues such as curbing cybercrimes and intermediary liability within the ambit of the legal proceedings.

At the previous hearing, the Supreme Court asked for issuing of notices to the Centre and social media entities including YouTube, Google and Twitter on Facebook’s plea for the transfer petition.

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