In the matter of Swami Ramdev & Anr. v. Facebook, Inc. & Ors. [CS (OS) 27/2019], the Delhi High Court, vide its order dated October 23, 2019, issued an interim injunction directing Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter and others to take down defamatory content globally, pending final disposal of the suit. The order goes beyond the conventional form of ‘geo-blocking’, wherein removal of URLs is limited to particular geographic locations, and allows blocking of offending URLs on a global scale, giving the injunction international effect.
The instant suit was filed by the Plaintiffs seeking removal of alleged defamatory online content based on the book “Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev”. The Plaintiffs had earlier obtained an injunction against publication, distribution and sale of the book without deletion of the offending portions, and now sought an injunction directing the Defendants to remove the offending URLs and weblinks from their platforms across the world.
Although the Defendants agreed to block the offending URLs and weblinks within India, the Plaintiffs contended that this would be ineffective as the URLs could still be accessed in India through VPNs and other online mechanisms. The Defendants countered that a global blocking order would be beyond the Court’s territorial jurisdiction. The Defendants further contended that each jurisdiction has its own unique laws, and a global injunction may make the Defendants liable for violating the freedom of speech in certain jurisdictions.
The Court interpreted section 79(3)(b) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which provides that the intermediaries have a duty to “expeditiously remove or disable access” to the offending material “on that resource”. The Court interpreted “that resource” to mean a “computer resource” which “encompasses within itself a computer network” and held that “…if an information or data has been uploaded on a computer network, the platforms would be bound to remove it and disable it from that computer network completely”. The Court accordingly issued a global injunction, holding that “so long as the uploading from India led to the data or information residing in the network or being connected to the network, the same ought to be disabled or blocked globally. Any other interpretation of Section 79 would result in reducing the efficacy of the provision which equates the computer resource which initially created the information and the resource from where it is to be disabled or removed”.