On Thursday, the Delhi High Court passed an order asking YouTube to take down videos that were spreading fake news about Aaradhya Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan’s granddaughter. The videos in question put out rumours about her health. Aaradhya and her father Abhishek Bachchan moved a suit in court against the YouTube channels partaking in this, and now it seems their efforts will bear fruit.
“Dissemination of misleading information about a child, especially as regards physical and mental health, is completely intolerable under the law,” Reuters quoted the High Court order by Justice C. Harishankar.
Additionally, the Court asked the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) to block access to the specific content uploaded by the YouTube channels in question, or any similar content released by other channels.
Fake news, clickbait headlines and “exclusive” scoops on celebrities are constantly doing the rounds. Especially when news is consumed via social media, one might encounter more fake news than real news. A study by MIT scholars found that this is true in the case of Twitter.
However, the High Court stressed on the fact that the misleading news involved a child. This brings into question another concerning aspect. Aaradhya, who is 11, comes from one of Bollywood’s most prominent families. This has put her in the spotlight all her life. The children of Bollywood celebrities, including Taimur Ali Khan, Aryan and Suhana Khan, have always been in public scrutiny. It’s all thanks to news and entertainment platforms that photograph them and write about them. Most of them were minors when this started, which raises concerns surrounding their right to privacy. They cannot consent to being photographed, and importantly, they did not choose a lifestyle that thrusts them into the limelight repeatedly. Whether this content is false or misleading, like in the case of Aaradhya Bachchan, then becomes a secondary issue. Still, it’s an important one nonetheless.
Lack of privacy is a deep-rooted issue within this industry. Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli have been consistent in their efforts to dissuade paparazzi from photographing their daughter. She expressed her concerns on Instagram earlier in 2022 when they took photos of her daughter Vamika for the first time. Outside of Bollywood, George Clooney has vocalised his concerns too. He wrote an open letter addressed to Daily Mail and other publications in 2021.
“I am a public figure and accept the oftentimes intrusive photos as part of the price to pay for doing my job.” E! obtained a copy of the letter Clooney wrote. “Our children have made no such commitment.”
Gigi Hadid, Blake Lively, Billie Lourd and various others have joined the campaign to protect their children from media platforms and the paparazzi violating their privacy. They’re right to be concerned. In multiple instances, paparazzi have acted in intrusive ways and tabloids have circulated harmful rumours.
For as long as we have social media, fake news will likely continue to infiltrate it. Steps to crack down on it are possible, yet perhaps not realistic. But when it happens in the context of children, who cannot consent and may struggle with the consequences, it raises issues of their privacy as well. The Delhi High Court’s decision is an attempt towards making official and unofficial news platforms more sensitive towards such issues.