A court in the United States has ruled that Facebook can legally block any content that is posted to its site without offering an explanation. The ruling comes after a Sikh group complained about Facebook taking its page down.
The San Francisco court made its ruling in a lawsuit that was filed against the social media website by a group known as Sikhs For Justice. This group claimed that Facebook blocked its page in India based on the grounds that they were advocating for Sikh separatism.
Both the Indian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the national government of India have tried to block the page which allegedly displayed content that was determined to be objectionable.
On November 13th, Judge Lucky Koh of the United States Northern District of California ruled that the encouragement of religious discrimination made by the Sikhs For Justice group was illegal under the Communications Decency Act. The act protects interactive computer service providers so that they cannot be considered to be the publishers of the messages that were created by their users.
Legal advisor for Sikhs For Justice Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said, “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.”
In court, Pannun argued that since Facebook was an American organization, it had to support the first amendment provision of free speech. Pannun also said that the ruling did not answer any of the allegations made by Sikhs For Justice. He also stated that blocking content without offering an explanation is no different than that of a dictatorship.
Pannun wrote, “Facebook owes an explanation to its users after or before blocking and removing the content which is guaranteed under freedom of speech.”
For now, Pannun and Sikhs For Justice plan to start working on an appeal.