High Court mulls ways to curb criminal abuse of social media

The Madras HC on Wednesday simply adjourned the hearing of the PIL seeking to link Aadhar with social mediaaccounts to ensure easy detection of online fraud & cybercrimes, as the SC(Supreme Court) is seized of the issue & the latter has restrained the HC from passing any final order.

A division bench of Justice S Manikumar & Justice Subramonium Prasad, however, made it clear that they are not inclined to entertain the prayer for linking Aadhar with social media accounts. The bench said it was trying only to navigate ways to curb online crime with the cooperation of social media companies. The bench then said it would take up the hearing on September 19, as the SC has listed the plea moved by Facebook seeking transfer of all such cases to the Top Court on September 13.

On Wednesday, when the plea moved by Antony Clement Rubin came up for hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Facebook, submitted that it would be a waste of time for the HC to continue hearing the matter as the SC had already restrained the HC from passing any final order. Opposing the submission, Tamil Nadu advocate-general Vijay Narayan contended that there is no impediment for the HC to continue the hearing as the SC has made it clear that the HCs could continue hearing the pleas but should not pass any final order.

Concurring with the submissions of Rohatgi, the bench observed that any further hearing of the case would be useless if the Top court decided to transfer the cases from HCs. During the last hearing, an expert from IIT-Madras informed the HC that it was technically possible to track people spreading rumours through social media platforms like WhatsApp.

The submission was made in response to the stand taken by WhatsApp that messages on its platform can never be traced to the origin because of the encryption built in to ensure privacy of its users. V Kamakoti, a professor at IIT-M countered this, telling the court that it is technically possible to add an ‘original’ identification tag to messages on WhatsApp even with the encryption. He said this is possible by WhatsApp making a change in the product design to include the phone number of the ‘originator’ whenever a message is forwarded.

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