Subodh Gupta Case: Facebook Says Revealing Identity of Account Holder Violates Privacy

On September 18, the Delhi high court had passed an interim order directing Facebook to furnish the details of the person behind the Instagram handle that had accused Subodh Gupta of sexual harassment.

New Delhi: Facebook has moved an application before the Delhi high court arguing that disclosing the details of the person operating the anonymous ‘@herdsceneand’ Instagram account, that had accused artist Subodh Gupta of sexual harassment, “would risk violating the right to privacy”, and adversely impact “potential victims of sexual harassment who share their experiences” through the account, according to a report in the Indian Express.

According to LiveLaw, after Gupta moved the high court and sought the removal of the alleged defamatory content, the court had passed an ex-parte interim order on September 18 and directed Facebook, the owner of Instagram, to remove the defamatory content and block the URLs mentioned therein in addition to furnishing the details of the person behind the Instagram handle.

Seeking modifications of the court’s orders, Facebook has argued that disclosing such information would violate the person’s fundamental right to privacy and the right to communicate anonymously on the Internet, especially on matters of “public importance” such as disclosing sexual harassment.

Also read: Subodh Gupta Files Rs 5-Crore Defamation Suit Against Anonymous Instagram Account

“Such a direction would chill lawful speech and expression, dissuading not only sexual harassment victims from sharing their experiences in the future, but also whistleblowers from reporting such unlawful acts,” said Facebook in its application.

Facebook maintained that it would be wrong to assume that the allegedly defamatory content was disseminated with an intent to cause mischief since the content in question dealt with a matter of great public importance – disclosing acts of sexual harassment.

Facebook has sought the modification of the interim order on the grounds that sharing the identity of the account holder may lead to intimidation, retaliation and other forms of harm against the person and other potential victims of sexual harassment.

Additionally, compliance with the interim order would be a violation of the fundamental right of privacy upheld by the Supreme Court in KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India which also included the right to communicate anonymously on the internet.

Previously, the Delhi high court had directed Google to remove around 18 news articles in connection with the allegations against Subodh Gupta. On October 14, Google had moved the Delhi high court asking it to modify its order, saying that such an action would have a “chilling effect on free speech.” Google also said that it would be “against public interest” to take down the articles.