The Madras HC has directed Google LLC and YouTube to appear before it in the PIL which deals with linking the online identity of users with Aadhaar or other government authorised ID proof, reports Live Law. The PIL also demanded making social media companies duty-bound to assist probe agencies in criminal matters, especially cyber crimes.

However, the Madras HC has served notice to Google India, which is a subsidiary of Google LLC, and YouTube. Justice S Manikumar refused to grant Google India’s request that a fresh notice be issued to YouTube and its parent company Google LLC.

  • The court was of the view that issuing fresh notice would delay the disposal of the writ petition.
  • It directed Google India, a subsidiary of Google LLC, to send a copy of the affidavit and orders to YouTube and Google LLC and ask them to enter appearance.

What was the PIL about?

  • The bench of Justice Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad was hearing a petition moved by Antony Clement Rubin seeking directions to the government to make the linking of Aadhaar or any government authorized ID proof mandatory for authentication while creating email and other social media accounts.
  • Rubin’s counsel SV Pravin Rathinam argued that the linking of a government-issued ID proof to create accounts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter or utility accounts like PayTM, Uber, Ola, Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail would help in tackling rising incidents of cyber crime, cyber defamations and cyber stalking and to protect the innocent “victimized E-Citizens of India”.
  • The bench had taken note of a counter-affidavit filed by the Additional Commissioner of Police, Central Crime Branch, Greater Chennai. The affidavit said that the Chennai City Cyber Crime Cell was facing difficulties in obtaining details from social media companies located outside the country. The affidavit also stated that these service providers were not providing details towards the investigation and detection of crimes reported to the Cyber Crime Cell.
  • The court had, in September, issued notices to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and Google after it was informed during the hearing of this petition that social media companies did not  provide details to the probe agency when it asked for details in a cyber crime.

On October 31, Google India informed the court that the notice sent to YouTube has been served at the Google India head office at Hyderabad and requested that a fresh notice be issued to YouTube LLC and Google LLC. The matter is now listed for November 22.

The hearing on the PIL so far

The judges rejected the request to link Aadhaar but decided to examine why the social media giants were not sharing information with the police, reports The Hindu. The HC, while hearing the matter on October 31st, asked the Centre why it was not banning Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter and other social media majors in the country if they were not adhering to the law of the land and assisting the investigating agencies here in solving cyber crimes.

Earlier, the court sought a reply from the Chennai Police on the points raised by the petition.

  • To illustrate the extent of the problem, the police said that during 2016-2018, the Cyber Crime Cell of the Chennai City Police had sent about 1,940 requests to social media and technology companies, asking for Internet Protocol logs. These are numbers partially identify a computer that was used to post something on the internet. Among the police requests were 885 requests to Facebook, 101 to Twitter, 788 to Google (Gmail), 155 to YouTube and 11 requests to WhatApp.
  • But the police received a response for only 484 requisitions: 211 from Facebook, one from Twitter, 268 from Gmail and 4 from YouTube. No reply was received from WhatsApp. “It is necessary to state that remaining 1,456 IP (Internet Protocol) requisitions were rejected by social media companies,” the police said.
  • Referring to the text of both the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Information Technology Rules, the Madras HC said that the law made it clear that when required by a lawful order, the companies shall provide information or any such assistance to government agencies who are lawfully authorised to carry out investigative, protective and cyber security activity.

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