GOOGLE DELETING TIKTOK NEGATIVE REVIEWS: INTERFERENCE WITH FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
In today’s world, everyone is using the social media platform to muster information and to showcase their skills, talents, and to communicate with different people around the world from different walks of life. Most of the people are trying to undergo experience to make it worth living. As of today when we look around ourselves, we will find 4 out of 5 individuals in every group are inclined towards social media as they find it as an integral part of their life which is precise at some point in time. Social media contains applications, websites, micro blogs, and many more which has made our life trouble-free. With the help of social media, we can make use of the platform for connecting with people, photo sharing, podcasts, forums, learning, marketing, and what not. So with the upside movement of such a service making our lives easier, there also comes a downside part. While on one side you are receiving appreciation, you’ll be filled with criticism, condemnation, or censure on the other side. This kind of negativity can be seen mostly among the teenagers or youths of the peer group. They’ve made this platform a place where people can easily make friends or end up making rivalry.
We can say that social media has given liberty to one’s freedom of expression. As under article 19 of the universal declaration of Human Rights ends recognized in international human rights law in the international covenant on civil & political rights states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression”, The right clearly states that it gives us the freedom to seek, receive and impose information and ideas of all kinds, While in the version of article 19 in ICCPR later amends this by stating that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties & responsibilities”; and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions”; when necessary “[f]or report of the rights or reputation of others”.[] This clearly states that one is not obliged to undergo the use of any unfair or any such terms and statements which might hinder the terms & policies of a particular social network authority. By collectively taking all these things into consideration, we can say that we should try to take advantage of social media by all means of concern but should always keep our thoughts, actions, and emotions restricted to a certain extent which might not disrupt the balance of social media towards the world.
THE REASON BEHIND THE DOWN RATING OF TIKTOK
Tiktok (a video sharing app) has been in the headlines for a few months due to some or other reason. ByteDanceLtd.’s millennial sensation Tiktok ranked top in the world among mobile apps for April revenue. [] The ratings of this app degraded from 4.5 to 1.2 overnight, when a social media influencer/ TikToker named Faizal Siddique uploaded a deceptive video of imitating a scene of threatening a woman who decided to leave him by throwing liquid on her face, it was actually water but in the video, it was shown that the women left with scars and bruises that are caused due to acid attack.[] The scars were the resemblance of make-up but the effect of it caused disquiet in the society. Google blocked his account and the police said that the content risked the safety of others, promoting physical violence and outraging a women’s modesty. The content was violating the guidelines of TikTok and social media platforms. Later, FaizalSiddique apologized for his actions, by the time he did this; people were fuelled up with anger and started protesting against TikTok and Faizal. To amplify their protest, they started making fake accounts and downvoting the app with one star. Google determined this incident of ‘spam abuse’ which was against its guidelines and intervened by deleting more than five million vague ratings and comments. A YouTuber named ‘Carryminati’ added fuel to the fire by roasting tiktokers in his you tube video, which leads to an impetuous impact on people and influenced them to opprobria the content of tiktok and the tiktokers.
ARTICLE 19- RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION: AN OVERVIEW
Article 19 has been called the backbone of part three of our Indian Constitution. This article talks about two things which include the right of citizens and on the other hand it talks about the restrictions presented to the states by which the states could easily curtail the rights of its citizens. This article is only available to the citizens and can be exercised only against the states. Article 19(1) gives its citizens six kinds of freedom to enjoy their liberty whereas Article 19(2) – 19(6) talks about the rights of the states to formulate reasonable restrictions on its citizens so that they could not misemploy their powers/rights. Article 19(1) states that all the citizens shall have the right to (a) freedom of speech and expression; (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms; (c) to form associations or unions; (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India; (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India and (g) to practice and profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.[] Article 19 (1)(a) talks about “Freedom of Speech and Expression”, which covers three types of rights including (a) the right to receive information (b) the right to express their own ideas, and (c) the right to keep any communication as a secret. In the recent amendment of section 377 in the case of ‘Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India’ [], which decriminalized homosexuality has been done keeping in mind the right of citizens under Article 19 (1) (a). Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his speech mentioned that it is not required to include the rights of freedom of press specifically in the Indian constitution because Article 19 is mainly influenced by the 1st amendment of the constitution of the USA which enshrines the principle of “Freedom of Speech or of Press”. In the case of ‘Sakal Papers vs. Union of India’ [] it has been stated that the freedom of the press is a specie of freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of speech and expression is not an absolute right as the states have powers to limit these rights by the implementation of eight restrictions which are stated below:
- Sovereignty and integrity of India
- Security of state
- Friendly relations with foreign states
- Public order
- Morality or decency
- Contempt of court
- Incitement to an offense
These restrictions can be implemented when it’s reasonable and can be done only by the authority of law with specified purposes with a judicial review. []
GOOGLE DELETING BAD REVIEWS: IS IT REALLY AN INTERFERENCE WITH THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION?
Google did not infringe the right to “freedom of speech and expression” as it is mentioned in the guidelines of Google that the content which is inappropriate and is unacceptable, inauthentic, and unauthorized shall be under surveillance to take corrective measures for. Down rating certain app by fake/unauthentic means is strictly against the rules and principles of Google or a social media platform. In article 19 (2) which present ‘reasonable restrictions’ to the citizens also states that if an activity (oral, written, printed, in a form of art, enacted, imitated, etc.) is against morality, decency or public order, would be subject to strict and corrective actions. Therefore, the measure taken by Google were pertinent to the situation, and the rules and guidelines formulated by them.
Google’s circulate to help revive the app’s ratings are in line with its regulations regarding consumer reviews. The employer does not allow users to publish the same review from distinct accounts in order to spam the review section on the app store or with the intention to manipulate an app’s ratings. It also does no longer permit political observation for use to justify scores or supply opinions. With the coronavirus outbreak which originated from Wuhan in China, numerous users have been bringing up its Chinese origins because of the motive why they’re downvoting the app, and others ought to too. In the end, we derive at the conclusion that the down rating of the app has been done due to several reasons and by deleting negative reviews, Google did not infringe on the right to freedom of speech and expression as the guidelines of Google strictly prohibits spam abuse and the content which is vague and has derived from a fake or inappropriate resource.
Author(s) Name: Muskan Verma (New Law College, Bhartiya Vidyapeeth, Pune)