How touchy is Pepsico about Kurkure?

16,600 of the 17,713 pieces of content that Facebook removed in India between July and December 2018, in response to legal requests by India’s law enforcement agencies, courts, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), were related to Pepsico, according to Facebook’s latest Transparency Report. At 17,713, the number of takedowns were a steep rise from the previous six-month period, when only 1,500 pieces of content were restricted.

“We restricted a further 29 items in response to other court orders related to defamation,” Facebook said. The vast majority of the content restricted was on Facebook – only 28 pieces of content on Instagram were restricted. The content restricted on Facebook in India included 17,482 posts, 200 pages and groups, 2 comments and 1 profile. Globally, Facebook restricted access to 36,000 pieces of content in July-Dec 2018, so the PepsiCo case accounted for 46% of content that the company restricted worldwide over the period, and 93.71% of content restricted in India.

Pieces of content taken down because of Pepsico: 166,000
% of India takedowns: 93.1%
% of global takedowns: 46%
Increase in India takedowns, QoQ: 11.8 times at 17713, as compared to 1500.

MediaNama had reported last July that PepsiCo had obtained an interim order from the Delhi High Court to delete hundreds of posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. These posts, PepsiCo said in its petition, furthered the myth that its Kurkure corn puffs contained plastic. The civil defamation suit compiled years of posts on the social media platforms, demanding that they be taken down. In all, 3412 Facebook links, 20,244 Facebook posts, 242 YouTube videos, 6 Instagram links and 562 tweets were ordered removed. The court pronounced an interim John Doe order, telling the social media platforms to immediately block the posts that the petition brought forward, after considering “just exceptions”. A John Doe order, known as an “Ashok Kumar” order in India, allows the company to get posts deleted from any unnamed person. “As far as we know, this is the first reported instance of a private company getting social media platforms to take down content at this scale in India,” we wrote at the time.

Facebook’s basis for restricting content: “Content restricted was alleged to violate Indian laws on the grounds listed under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and was primarily in the categories of hate speech, anti-religion content constituting incitement to violence, extremism, and anti-state content,” Facebook said.

Facebook’s content restrictions in India had increased from 4,800 in July-Dec 2013 to 15,000 in July-Dec 2015 (see graph below). However, they tanked over the next six months, and had hovered around the 2,000 mark until July-Dec 2018. Facebook explained why: “In 2016, informed by the decision of the Supreme Court of India last year amending the proper interpretation of the Information Technology Act of 2000, we ceased acting upon legal requests to remove access to content unless received by way of a binding court order and/or a notification by an authorized agency which conforms to the constitutional safeguards as directed by the Supreme Court.”