Film reviews meant to inform and enlighten, not destroy: Kerala High Court expresses concern over lack of regulations for online platforms

Justice Devan Ramachandran wondered why the so-called reviewers were not appearing in the court if they had strong convictions about their rights.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published Nov 07, 2023 | 6:57 PMUpdatedNov 07, 2023 | 6:57 PM

Kerala High court police harassment

Taking a tough stance on the film reviewing system, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday, 7 November, observed that there were film reviewers who were not registered under any organisation nor accredited, and also had no guidelines to follow while publishing their content on the online platform.

Earlier in October, the court considered the petition of Mubeen Rauf who stated that vloggers were uploading negative reviews without even watching movies, which was affecting the business.

Mubeen also sought a gag order to ensure that social media influencers and film-reviewing vloggers do not publish any reviews of films for at least seven days after the release.

No regulations for online platforms

The Single Judge Bench order of Justice Devan Ramachandran observed that “Writ petition of individuals behind the films cannot be sacrificed at the altar of freedom of expression asserted by individuals who seem to be under the impression that they are not governed by any parameter or regulations, particularly when there is nothing on record to show that any of them are registered or akin to journalists or such other service providers,” the Live Law reported.

Further, the court observed that while critics working for newspapers and television were under some form of regulation, nothing of such sort existed for those working for online platforms.

“They’re not accredited reviewers, and they talk about their rights, but without a semblance of their duties. I am surprised that none of the so-called reviewers are coming before me if they have such strong convictions about their rights. It is all done in the shadows,” the judge said, as reported by Live Law.

The court also noted that two kinds of reviews exist — one where individuals start their own YouTube channel to express their views and another where platforms give the right to rate movies or products. Both had to be dealt with in different ways.

“There should be civility in everything. In public life itself civility is going down,” the judge said.

Related: Professional reviews and motivated reviews are different: Kerala HC

Online reviews curbed to an extent

In the previous hearing, the court called for a “close watch” of online platforms so that anonymous and mala fide reviews were not circulated.

On Tuesday, Amicus Curiae Shyam Padman said the menace of negative online reviews had been curbed to some extent after the court orders.

Government Pleader Vidya Kuriakose informed the court that action was being taken on complaints received and that anonymous posts were being watched closely.

Advocate Sudhi Vasudevan, who is appearing on behalf of the petitioner, submitted that since most reviewers were not accredited as journalists nor operated under any guidelines, a long-lasting solution could be found only if the Union government adopted appropriate measures in terms of the standards fixed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

The Union government Counsel Suvin R Menon sought two weeks’ time to file a response.

Following this, the Kerala High Court granted the time sought.

Before adjourning the matter, Justice Ramachandran said, “Reviews are intended to inform and enlighten, but not to destroy and extort”.

The matter was posted for consideration at a later date.

Related: Kerala HC interferes with new trend of Malayalam film reviews

Case filed & guidelines formulated

For the first time, a case was registered in October by Kochi City Police against the film review bombing. This was in response to the complaint filed by Ubaini, director of Rahel Makan Kora (2023), where he said deliberate attempts were made to degrade his film on social media.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Film Producers Association (KFPA) and Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) have chalked out new guidelines and measures to combat review bombing in the wake of the court’s remarks on review bombing.

Related: Kerala film bodies chalk out new guidelines to tackle review bombing