When the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that European courts can order Facebook to takedown content globally, if it's deemed to be illegal in Europe, Facebook warned that the ruling “undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on another country.” Now Facebook's warning is manifesting outside of Europe with an Indian court recently ruling that YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter must block a video globally because it's deemed to be “defamatory” by the court.
The video at the center of the global takedown order is about the book Godman to Tycoon which an Indian court has previously barred from sale in the country on the grounds that it's defamatory towards yoga guru Swami Ramdev. However, the details of the video and the “basic subscriber information of the person who uploaded the video have been sealed.
YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter argued that they are already geo-blocking the video in India “which is more than sufficient to take care of the Plaintiffs' interests.”
They added that global blocking orders result in “muzzling dissent” and pointed to defendants who have previously turned to US courts to prevent enforcement of global blocking orders – an outcome which could “undermine the dignity of Indian courts”:
“He further submits that a global ban on content ought to be the last resort of the Court. Such an order results in muzzling dissent. Reliance is placed on the Equustek litigation, wherein an order to remove content was passed by the Courts in Canada and when Google brought an action before a US District Court to prevent enforcement of the Canadian Court's order, the U.S. Court restricted the application of the Canadian court's order only to Canadian territory. Such judgments could severely undermine the dignity of Indian courts if global injunction orders are passed.”
Additionally, the companies argued that defamation laws differ in each country and passing a global blocking order would result in a conflict of laws.
Another argument brought forward by YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter is that the Godman to Tycoon book is available outside of India which shows that the video should not be blocked worldwide and instead just blocked in India.
However, the Indian court rejected these arguments and said that geo-blocking alone still allows the “offending information” to be accessible from India, not only through VPN and other mechanisms, but also by accessing the international websites of these platforms.” This led to the final ruling:
“All offending material which has therefore, been uploaded from within India on to the Defendants' computer resource or computer network would have to be disabled and blocked on a global basis.”
Stanford Intermediary Liability Director Daphne Keller responded to the order by echoing Facebook's concerns and highlighting that it will likely lead to more courts enforcing their national laws globally.
Here we go. Now India is ordering platforms to take down information globally based on Indian laws. Which seems perfectly reasonable, since France, Austria, and Canada all get to do it. But that's exactly the problem: every court in every country will want to do the same thing. https://t.co/5fx6pZCviV
— Daphne Keller (@daphnehk) October 23, 2019
Keller added that the ruling appears to be based on “the unexamined assumption that uploads from India justify global takedown orders.”