Delhi High Court seems to be in no mood to budge on the issue – “How children below 18 Years are accessing Facebook.” The public interest litigation (PIL) that was filed in the previous month by Former BJP ideologue and a present patron of RSS, KN Govindacharya has got support from the court. According to latest development in the case – Delhi High Court has expressed worry about children being exploited through social networking sites like Facebook and Google. The court has also asked the social networking sites to submit suggestions on safety measures for online usage of such sites by minors in India. The court has given four weeks’ time to submit the suggestions (News Source: TOI).
The bench of justices B D Ahmed and Vibhu Bakhru has shown concern on the matter that minors are entering into social networking sites and are then being lured into illegality by adults knowingly or unknowingly. The bench also raised concerns about the use of the children’s data by adults.
The latest move by the court has come in action after counsel from Facebook Inc. submitted that the site operated under the US law Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) as per which a child below 13 is not allowed to open an account. The argument has been challenged by the bench arguing that the site is only concerned about the rights of US children and have completely ignored the rights of Indian children. The court has asked the social networking sites on how the rights of Indian children can be protected like American children and has fixed July 16th, 2013 as the next date of hearing.
The bench’s direction to this matter came while hearing the plea of former BJP ideologue K N Govindacharya seeking recovery of taxes from the websites on their income from operations in India. In addition to this, the court has also expressed unhappiness over the Center’s argument that there is no mechanism in place to verify the identity and age of a child from online account. Additionally, the center has also said that all users have to enter into an agreement with the site while opening an account which is not a contract but agreement to the terms and conditions.
Is the latest move justified by the court?
Yes and it is not going to be an easy task. The court’s decision to ask social networks like Facebook on how can the rights of Indian children be protected like American children is a rational ask. However, as the government has said there are no security checks possible right now and this applies to everyone whether the person is in India or US. Additionally, social networking sites can always say that one has to agree to the T&C before one joins the network.
However, the main concern is the adults on these sites luring minors into illegality. The court wants to stop this but isn’t bothered in educating the perils of social networking to minors. Right now the court is bothered about social networking sites like Facebook but today anyone who is above 10 or 11 years old has a mobile phone and installing messaging apps like WhatsApp or WeChat is really easy and they don’t have any age check too. How is the court going to tackle this problem?
Nevertheless, the court raises some realistic concerns regarding safety of data and how social networking sites are hungry for user’s personal data. An ongoing issue for which Facebook has been criticized from a pretty early stage.
It would be interesting to see what social networking sites have to say.
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