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Unacceptable to Permit Anonymous, Malafide movie reviews: Kerala High Court

[Mubeen Rauf v Union of India & Ors.].

The Court observed that although the Kerala police’s methods to stop “motivated, malicious, negative reviews” and “review bombings” were commendable, more work was needed to address the underlying problem.

On Wednesday, the Kerala High Court directed that online platforms be closely watched to make sure that hostile movie reviews or review bombings aren’t posted or shared in an anonymous manner.

The Court also urged the authorities to act against such anonymous content by invoking the relevant provisions of the Information Technology Act (IT Act) without delay.

“A close watch on online platforms shall be maintained to ensure that anonymous, malafide content is not allowed to circulate and necessary action under provisions of the IT Act shall be taken and implemented scrupulously and without any delay,” the High Court ordered.

Justice Devan Ramachandran reasoned that anonymous reviews may present opportunities for a person to act maliciously with the intent to blackmail or extort.

The judge added that this issue is not only relevant when it comes to film reviews, but also for other areas, particularly in the business sphere.

The Court was considering two petitions including one moved by Mubeen Rauf, the director of the film “Aromalinte Adyathe Pranayam”.

Rauf highlighted the harmful impact on the film industry due to the unrestrained negative criticism by vloggers.

Justice Ramachandran was told today that the film was spared review bombings and had a decent run at the box office after the High Court took up the issue.

During the hearing today, the Court also orally remarked that the biggest problem was that such reviews were often anonymous.

The identity of the person has to be there. You have to say who you are, particularly when you are putting up a review. The anonymity of the platform is the biggest problem now,” he said.

Amicus curiae Shyam Padmandaban submitted that he has information on pages operating under fictional names and without any credentials. Such absolute anonymity itself is a crime under the IT Act, he said.

Meanwhile, the Kerala State Police Chief submitted protocols being put in place to prevent “motivated, malicious, negative reviews” and “review bombings.”

The Court opined that while these protocols were a welcome step, more efforts should be made to tackle the issue at hand.

The High Court, therefore, asked the Central Government to submit a proper response in the matter after studying these protocols.

The Amicus Curiae was also asked to examine the protocols and suggest modifications, if any were required.

The Court further asked whether standards put in place by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) could be applied to curb fake reviews.

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