The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed YouTube channels and Google to take down ‘misleading content’ claiming that Aaradhya Bachchan, daughter of actors Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, was ‘critically ill’ and ‘no more '.
The court, while hearing a lawsuit by the minor child and her father, said spreading misinformation about a child reflects ‘morbid perversity’.
Justice C Hari Shankar said that every child is entitled to be treated with honour and respect and dissemination of misleading information concerning a child's health was "completely intolerable in law".
The court, in the interim order, directed Google(which owns YouTube) to inform the plaintiff about the details of the uploaders in question and clarified that similar videos, whenever brought to Google's notice, shall also be taken down.
"Defendants 1 to 9 (YouTube channels) are completely restrained from publishing, sharing, and disseminating any content on any public platform across the net relating to the state of health or physical condition of the plaintiff," the court said.
The court also said that spreading misinformation about a child reflects "morbid perversity" and "complete apathy in the interests of the child". "Defendant no 10 (Google) will immediately delist and deactivate all videos (mentioned in the plea," it said.
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The court also asked Google to file a response stating in detail its policy on dealing with such objectionable content on the YouTube platform in view of intermediary rules. It also directed the Centre to block access to the content in question and said Google was duty-bound to follow the legal framework for intermediaries(in accordance with the IT Act).
“The Delhi High Court has recognized that the privacy of young Aaradya Bachchan needs to be protected, against those that are spreading false news and are gaining profits from misusing her family name,” said Pravin Anand, Managing Partner at Anand and Anand.
Aaradhya Bachchan’s plea
The Plaintiffs, Aaradhya Bachchan, a minor, and her guardian and parent, Abhishek Bachchan, filed a petition against various entities operating channels on YouTube and other unidentified defendants for creating, uploading, and sharing of videos that contain, false, defamatory information about the Plaintiffs.
“The Defendants’ videos use the images of the Plaintiffs, and other members of the Bachchan family to proclaim that Plaintiff no 1(Aaradhya Bachchan) is severely unwell; and/or has been admitted to the hospital and/or has passed away. They also show Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and other members of the Bachchan family in poor light, for not having taken steps to provide prompt medical attention to the minor,” the petition stated.
The petition was filed on the grounds of violation of the right to privacy, tarnishing and bringing disrepute to the goodwill vested in the Bachchan family name, violation of publicity rights, and defamation of the Plaintiffs
“The sole purpose behind such distasteful content in the offending videos is to create shock value, gain overnight popularity for the channels uploading such videos, and profit from the use of the Bachchan family name. All at the cost of violating the privacy of the Plaintiffs, denigrating and denting the reputation of the Plaintiffs and their family name,” the plea said.
The petition also said that 'unless restrained with immediate orders of injunction that restrain not just the identified videos, but any other videos which are either identical in content, or which contain similar content that forms the subject matter of the videos identified herein, the misleading videos will act as a several headed hydra, which, with each strike of the sword, will continue to develop more heads and cause further menace'.