We are in the second week of 2013 and we are already seeing the law of the land back at what it does best, trying to curb the freedom of social media sites. According to Business Standard, a Delhi court has issued fresh summons against 11 US based websites which include the likes of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Orkut, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. The summonses have been raised on the grounds that the websites promote class enmity and undermine national integrity.
The Vinay Rai case surfaces again
Last year during this time a Delhi Court had issued summons to 21 companies that included the social networking giant Facebook and other US based sites for allegedly hosting objectionable contents and had directed them to appear before the court by March 13, 2012. The court then had directed the Ministry of External Affairs to serve the summons to the companies.
The summonses were issued when a journalist Vinay Rai had raised a private complaint that the 21 firms listed were allegedly casting objectionable content. Since then the case has been pending in the Delhi court and High Court. Some of the companies listed objected that they have been wrongly listed since they don’t host any objectionable content and neither are social networking sites.
However, the fresh summonses have once again opened the lid. This time the court has issued summonses after the counsel for the complainant submitted to it the remaining three forms, which were required to be filled up as per the prescribed norms of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between the USA and India.
Initially The Ministry Of Home Affairs had suggested to the court to start extradition proceedings to secure the presence of these international websites instead of issuing summonses against them. However, the court has ruled out any such extradition proceedings and emphasized issuing summons to the 11 US based websites.
Where are we going?
The case doesn’t seem to be settling soon in the future with the government and other forces holding social networking sites responsible for the content that is being uploaded or shared by users. I have earlier debated on why it won’t be possible to regulate content on social media considering the magnitude of the medium. But the way the times are changing, pretty soon the world may be served screened social media content, stricter laws and a slow death of freedom of speech.