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Facebook can block content without explanation, says U.S. court

Wed 18 Nov 2015

A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook can block any content posted to its site without explanation, after a Sikh group legally challenged the company for taking its page offline.

The San Francisco court ruling followed a lawsuit filed against the social media giant by ‘Sikhs For Justice’ (SFJ), which claimed that Facebook had blocked its page in India for advocating Sikh separatism, particularly its campaign against the “persecution of Sikhs and for promoting a Sikh referendum in the Indian state of Punjab.” The Indian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the national government have already tried to block the page for displaying ‘objectionable content.’

On November 13th, U.S. Northern District of California Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the U.S. based rights group’s encouragement of religious discrimination is illegal under the Communications Decency Act, which protects ‘interactive computer services’ providers by preventing courts from treating them as the publishers of the speech created by their users.

“We will appeal and challenge the decision of Judge Koh which is just an extension of Facebook action of blocking SFJ’s page at the behest of the Indian government,” said attorney and SFJ’s legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

Pannun argued that Facebook, as an American organisation owing allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, should promote and protect free speech. He added that the latest ruling failed to answer any of the allegations made by SFJ.

The attorney also posed the question “What is the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship?”, arguing the Facebook is a public company yet wants to block content without public explanation.

In a statement, Pannun wrote that the Silcon Valley firm should have at least offered an explanation to SFJ as to who ordered the blocking – “Facebook owes an explanation to its users after or before blocking and removing the content which is guaranteed under freedom of speech.”


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