User has no right to be heard before action is taken, Meta tells Delhi HC, contradicts Centre’s position

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“To the extent that the applicant claims that he should be given the opportunity to be heard before measures are taken against him, this claim is unfounded. Under the law, the petitioner is simply not entitled to such an opportunity and, tellingly, the petitioner cites no authority for such a right,” Meta said while responding to a petition challenging the suspension of an Instagram account and loss of access to the link sticker feature. .

The 2021 IT Rules specify that significant social media intermediaries must provide a user “the opportunity to challenge the action taken by that intermediary and request reinstatement of access to that information”, the company added. “So the 2021 IT Rules specify that a user is only entitled to the opportunity to be heard after action has been taken. The user has no right to be heard before the action is taken,” the response reads.

The Center, in its response to a batch of petitions challenging Twitter’s suspension of accounts, earlier said, “when an SSMI platform makes such a decision to suspend all or part of the user’s account” for its own account “due to its violation policy, it should provide a reasonable opportunity for the user to defend their side, except in certain scenarios such as rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material (CSAM) , bot or malware activity, terrorism-related content, etc.

Meta further argued that the jurisdiction of the court under Section 226 of the Constitution cannot be invoked against him as he is a private entity and does not perform a public function. “The applicant has alternative remedies, and indeed effective ones, but has not exhausted them. Here, for example, the Grievor does not allege, let alone demonstrate, that he first raised his concern directly with Meta (eg, through its grievance mechanism). Nor does the petitioner explain why he could not have pursued his claim in civil court, rather than seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of this honorable court,” he said.

On the contrary, the Centre, in the response filed in March, said that if a social media platform suspends an account without giving notice, the user can invoke Rule 7 of the IT Rules 2021 and request an action in initiating appropriate proceedings in accordance with the law.

“The SSMIs must be held accountable for having subjugated and supplanted fundamental rights like the right to freedom of speech and expression, otherwise it would have disastrous consequences for any democratic nation. It is humbly maintained that the freedom and freedom of any individual cannot be hijacked or abandoned in the wake of social and technological progress,” he argued.

The Center had also told the court that a major social media intermediary (SSMI) could only remove illegal content, but not delete the account itself. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology further stated that such action without notice is tantamount to depriving an individual of the right to freedom of expression. Social media platforms “performing public functions” are required to ensure that these rights are not infringed.

The petitioner’s attempt to assert Section 19 rights against Meta is improper and against the law, the company asserted. “The relationship between the Petitioner and Meta arises out of private contract and the alleged dispute at issue is contractual, and Section 19 rights cannot be asserted against a private entity such as Meta,” the company said in its statement. answer.

Meta further told the court that the account in question was reinstated within 72 hours and had access to the link sticker feature. The Instagram service is a free and voluntary platform and the petitioner has no fundamental right to use it, the company argued.

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