Delhi High Court directs Google and Microsoft to challenge NCII images removal order

The order required search engines to disable access to non-consensual intimate images (NCII) without victims having to provide URLs.

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The Delhi High Court has directed Google and Microsoft to file a review petition seeking the recall of a previous order mandating search engines to promptly restrict access to non-consensual intimate images (NCII) without necessitating victims to provide specific URLs repeatedly. Both tech giants argued the technological infeasibility of identifying and proactively taking down NCII images, even with the assistance of AI tools.

The court’s order stems from a 2023 ruling requiring search engines to remove NCII within 24 hours, as per the IT Rules, 2021, or risk losing their safe harbour protections under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000. It proposed issuing a unique token upon initial takedown, with search engines responsible for turning off any resurfaced content using pre-existing technology to alleviate the burden on victims of tracking and repeatedly reporting specific URLs. Moreover, the court suggested leveraging hash-matching technology and developing a ‘trusted third-party encrypted platform’ for victims to register NCII content or URLs, shifting the responsibility of identifying and removing resurfaced content away from victims and onto the platform while ensuring utmost transparency and accountability standards.

However, Google expressed concerns regarding automated tools’ inability to discern consent in shared sexual content, potentially leading to unintended takedowns and infringing on free speech, echoing Microsoft’s apprehension about the implications of proactive monitoring on privacy and freedom of expression.