YouTube and Facebook among nine accused booked in first-ever ‘review bombing’ case in Kerala

Case registered following a complaint filed by Ubaini, the director of the recently-released Malayalam film 'Rahel Makan Kora'.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published Oct 25, 2023 | 6:17 PMUpdatedOct 25, 2023 | 6:42 PM

Ubaini had filed a case against fake reviews

For the first time, the Kochi City police registered a case against online film reviewing or “review bombing”.

Nine people who allegedly wrote negative reviews for Rahel Makan Kora — which was released two weeks ago — have been booked under the case.

Interestingly, YouTube and Facebook are among the nine accused.

The case was registered on Wednesday, 25 October, based on the complaint filed by Rahel Makan Kora director Ubaini. In his complaint, Ubaini alleged that deliberate attempts were made to degrade his film on social media.

The police earlier said that they would file a case only if any filmmaker lodged a complaint.

Special protocol by police

Ubaini's Rahel Makan Kora faced negative reviews

Ubaini’s ‘Rahel Makan Kora’ faced negative reviews. (Supplied)

During the hearing, the Kerala state police chief informed the Kerala High Court that they devised a protocol against review bombing, and a case could be filed for defaming a movie by giving negative reviews.

There were limitations in identifying fake IDs. However, an FIR could be filed if blackmailing in the name of money was reported, the DGP added.

The state government said action would be taken against anonymous reviewers who intentionally target films.

The High Court felt that these protocols were a welcome step and asserted that more efforts need to be made to tackle the issue at hand.

The court also asked the Union government to submit a proper response in the matter after studying these protocols.

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

High Court’s observations

The Kerala High Court called for close monitoring of online platforms to ensure that malicious film reviews or “review bombing” of movies were not anonymously uploaded or circulated, the Bar and Bench reported.

The court also ordered that “a close watch on online platforms shall be maintained to ensure that anonymous, mala fide 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.”

Freedom of expression is acceptable, but negative reviews can’t be allowed. Negative reviews from unknown IDs can’t be accepted at all, the court underlined.

Justice Devan Ramachandran opined that anonymous reviews could present opportunities for people to act maliciously with the intent to blackmail or extort, the Bar and Bench reported.

“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.

Meanwhile, Amicus Curiae Shyam Padmandaban said that he has information on pages operating without any credentials.

Also Read: Professional film reviews and motivated reviews are different: Kerala HC

Brief background

Earlier this month, the Kerala High Court sought an explanation from the Union and state governments on curbing negative reviews by online vloggers on the day of the release of films.

This came after Justice Devan Ramachandran took the petition by Mubeen Rauf into consideration. In his complaint, Mubeen said vloggers were uploading malicious reviews without even watching his movies which, in turn, was affecting their projects.

The court also appointed advocate Shyam Padman as Amicus Curiae in the matter.

During a hearing on Tuesday, 10 October, Justice Ramachandran urged for devising mechanisms against motivated reviews that are solely aimed at blackmailing the makers or hampering a film’s success.