Delhi High Court Restrains YouTube Channels from Publishing Fake Content on Aaradhya Bachchan’s Health: ‘Every Child Entitled to Honour and Respect’
The Delhi High Court has restrained a collection of YouTube Channels from spreading or continuing to broadcast videos that make false claims regarding Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan's daughter Aaradhya Bachchan.
Justice C Hari Shankar, while issuing notice on a plea by Bachchan, restrained the YouTube channels along with its affiliates from spreading or further continuing to broadcast videos identified in the plaint.
“Defendants 1-9 are also restrained from creating publishing, uploading or disseminating of any videos which are identical or similar in content to the videos forming subject matter of the aforesaid URLs. It is clarified that this would encompass all videos that deal with the physical condition of the plaintiff. In other words, Defendants are completely restrained from disseminating on any platform available across the internet relating to the mental or physical health of the plaintiff.”
Additionally, Google LLC and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Grievance Cell) were also made parties in the case and the former were directed to reveal the identity of the defendants to the Bachchans and immediately take steps to deactivate the URLs mentioned in the plaint.
“On the plaintiff bringing to their notice any other videos clip uploaded on its platform dealing with physical health and well-being of the plaintiff, Google will take immediate steps to take those down,” the judge said.
The Central Government has been ordered by the Court to block access to all the content as well as to any other similar videos or clips containing similar content.
Further directions were given to Google to clarify its policy and show compliance with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines Digital Media ethics) Rules in order to demonstrate that it has changed its policy in order to comply with the amendment that was made.
The Judge vociferously remarked that it has “zero tolerance” in matters where misleading content is published on such platforms relating to physical wellbeing of a child The judge stated, “Every child is entitled to be treated with honour and respect, be it child of celebrity or of a commoner,” adding that no technicality can come in its way in such matters.
The Court while noting that this was not the first time that such misleading information was being spread regarding a celebrity, where the information relates to a child, it reflected a morbid perversity with complete apathy to the child in question.
The Bachchan family moved the High Court to restrain various YouTube channels and John Doe defendants (unknown people) from publishing content that tarnish the Bachchan family name, discloses any details pertaining to their private life or which are defamatory in nature.
The Bachchans contended that they came across several videos on YouTube that claimed that Aaradhya was severely unwell and has been admitted to hospital. One of the videos even claimed that she has passed away. The videos further alleged that Bachchans did not take any steps to provide prompt medical attention to the child.
However, the plaint stated that Aaradhya is in good health and has not been hospitalised.
Justice Shankar during the hearing came down heavily upon the streaming platform for what it considered to be omission in carrying out its responsibility by allowing such false information to be disseminated through its platform.
The Court while reprimanding the streaming platform expressed, “If you are making money out of what you are doing, you have a social responsibility. You can't allow such things to be posted on your platform. You acknowledge that there are certain things for which you have zero tolerance. Why should this not fall in that category? That means your policy is faulty.”
The Court was of the view that the platform cannot evade from its responsibility by saying that it is merely an intermediary and not putting up such videos.
“"You are providing a facility to misinform the public. It's like saying the Times of India says that I am only providing paper and ink and you can write anything on the paper. You are providing a platform on which misleading information is being provided to the public. How can this be tolerated,” the judge rebuked.
The Court suggested that YouTube should have a policy in place to tackle such videos.
“You have responsibility to see that proper information is disseminated. Why don't you have a policy in matters like this,” the judge asked.
Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for Aaradhya referred to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules which provide for due diligence by the intermediaries with respect to content which is harmful to a child.
He argued, “In the age of social media, the reputation of a public person has become a child's play and here a child has to suffer.”
The plaint emphasized that the videos violate the plaintiff’s right to privacy and tarnish the goodwill vested in the Bachchan family name.
The Court was further informed that Aaradhya and her family members’ images have been altered and misused for disseminating false information and generating profits.
The plaint alleged that though a legal notice was sent to YouTube to take down these videos, the video-sharing platform responded that they do not remove content posted on their platform on allegations of defamation. Therefore, damages of Rs. 2 crore were sought.
YouTube also said that where the contact details of the uploaders of the unlawful videos were anonymous or untraceable, they can make them available only after a Court order.
Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan with Advocates Pravin Anand, Ameet Naik, Vaishali Mittal, Madhu Gadodia, Siddhant Chamola, Shivang Sharma, Hersh Desai, Pallavi Bhatnagar, Megha Chandra, Harsh Jha, Sujoy Mukherjee and Tarini kulkarni appeared for Aaradhya Bachchan and Amitabh Bachchan.