Can't Invoke Free Speech Against 'Private' Facebook, Instagram: Meta to Delhi HC

Meta, in its affidavit, said that the present dispute is a "contractual dispute between two private parties".
The Quint




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Facebook's parent company Meta Platforms told the Delhi High Court that free speech rights, guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India, cannot be invoked against it since it is a private entity.

Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, made this assertion in an affidavit filed in response to a writ petition alleging that an Instagram account 'Wokeflix' was illegally disabled, violating the right to free speech.

The affidavit called for the case to be thrown out, contesting that Instagram is "a free and voluntary platform, and Petitioner has no fundamental right to use it."

In response to another such petition, the government in March had told the court that an individual's freedoms cannot be "waylaid or jettisoned in the slipstream of social and technological advancement," PTI reported.

The government had reportedly said that "significant" social media intermediaries must be held accountable for "subjugating and supplanting" fundamental rights in order to avoid dire consequences for democracy.

A Contractual Dispute

Meta, in its affidavit, said that the present dispute is a "contractual dispute between two private parties".

"Petitioner's attempt to have this Hon'ble Court invoke its writ jurisdiction is particularly inappropriate as the relationship between Petitioner and Meta arises from a private contract and the alleged dispute at issue is a contractual one and Article 19 rights cannot be invoked against a private entity such as Meta," it said.

"Meta voluntarily provides the Instagram Service, and is not obligated to do so."
Meta's affidavit

It also contested that the petitioner is improperly seeking to invoke the Court’s writ jurisdiction against Meta since writ jurisdictions under Article 26 of the Constitution "may only be invoked against the “State” or “other Authority” under Article 12."

Meta said that it is not obligated to carry out a public duty and the Government does not exercise any control over its management or functioning. It also said that it hasn't been conferred monopoly status under the law and does not carry out any function similar to functions performed by the State in its sovereign capacity.

(With inputs from PTI)

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