meta: We’re private, user can’t invoke free speech rights: Meta | India News

NEW DELHI: Social media company Meta Platforms, Inc — the parent company of popular platforms Instagram and Facebook — has claimed in the Delhi high court that the rights under Article 19 (free speech) of the Indian Constitution cannot be invoked against it by a user since it is a private entity that does not discharge a public function.
In an affidavit filed in response to a petition against disabling of an Instagram account, the US-based company said that the “Instagram service is a free and voluntary platform” governed by a private contract and the petitioner user “has no fundamental right to use it”.
The high court is seized of several petitions challenging the suspension and deletion of several user accounts by various social media platforms. Meta contended that it is not obligated to carry out a “public duty”, and when action is taken against a user in accordance with the private contract between them, it results in a “contractual dispute between two private parties”.
Whether its enforcement actions were improper is governed by the Instagram Terms of Service and Community Guidelines, which constitute the private contract, and Meta is thus not amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the HC under Article 226 of the Constitution, the social media giant said.
“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,” the affidavit said.
It argued that the “attempt to assert Article 19 rights against Meta, a private entity, is improper, contrary to law, and ought to be denied… Meta is not discharging a public function that would make it amenable to this hon’ble court’s writ jurisdiction under Article 226.”
“Petitioner has not alleged a single fact demonstrating that the Instagram Service, or Meta itself, satisfies any of the above tests (of public function),” it said.
To the contrary, it said, “Meta is not obligated to carry out a public duty, the government does not exercise any control over Meta’s management nor its day-to-day functioning, and Meta has not been granted exclusive rights to carry on any activity.” The affidavit added that Meta has not been conferred monopoly status under the law, the company does not carry out any function similar or closely related to functions that are performed by the state in its sovereign capacity, and that Meta voluntarily provides the Instagram Service, and is not obligated to do so.

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