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    ANI Sues Wikipedia for Defamation, Demands INR 2 Crore

    Asian News International (ANI) has filed a defamation lawsuit against Wikipedia, seeking 2 crore rupees in damages. The news agency has alleged that Wikipedia’s entry about the company, which states that ANI “has been criticized for having served as a propaganda tool for the incumbent central government, distributing materials from a vast network of fake news websites, and misreporting events” is a defamatory description and has sought removal of the content, alongside monetary damages.

    ANI Sues Wikipedia for Defamation, Demands INR 2 Crore

    According to a report by LiveLaw, ANI’s lawyer argued that Wikipedia, which is an intermediary, is now used as a public utility and cannot behave as a private actor. ANI further stated that Wikipedia has published palpably false and defamatory content with malicious intent of tarnishing the news agency’s reputation and to discredit its goodwill. 

    Other passages flagged by ANI included one about alleged mistreatment of employees and one where the agency allegedly falsely blamed Muslims for the sexual assault and rape of two Kuki women during the 2023 Manipur violence. 

    ANI further alleged that Wikipedia, through its officials, has actively participated in removing the edits to reverse the content. “Thus, the conduct of Defendant No. 1 has resulted in a loss of its safe-harbour protection under section 79(1) of the Act, and made it liable for hosting and publishing defamatory content,” the suit states.

    What Is Safe Harbour?

    As Wikipedia hosts content that is generated by its users, it can be considered to be an intermediary under section 2(w) of the Information Technology Act (2000), which is defined as any person who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits that record or provides any service with respect to that record.

    According to section 79 of the same act, intermediaries are not liable for content that they host, provided they do not initiate the transmission, select the receiver of the transmission or select or modify the information contained in the transmission.

    Medianama has previously reported on the importance of such safe harbour protections and their role in helping the internet thrive. Medianama Founder Nikhil Pahwa spoke at a TRAI Open House Discussion and stated that safe harbour is extremely critical for the healthy functioning of the internet, as it protects telecom operators, ISPs and stakeholders from liability for the actions of users. If such protections are removed, they would be detrimental for the free speech of internet users.

    However, the Indian government may opt to do away with safe harbour entirely, as Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar suggested in a public consultation for the Digital India Act.  “If there is a need for safe harbour, who should be entitled to it? The whole logic of safe harbour is that platforms have absolutely no power or control over the content that some other consumer creates on the platform. But, in this day and age, is that really necessary? Is that safe harbour required?” said the minister. He argued that anonymity combined with safe harbour created a situation where “cyberspace morphs into a space where illegalities cannot be deterred or prosecuted.”

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    The post ANI Sues Wikipedia for Defamation, Demands INR 2 Crore appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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