Indian Court Grants PepsiCo's Takedown Request Targeting Thousands Of 'Disparaging' Social Media Posts

from the I-love-the-smell-of-burning-Kurkure-in-the-morning dept

A global conglomerate concerned about the reputation of its plastic “safe vegetarian” snack has talked an Indian court into ordering the blocking of thousands of posts it finds disparaging. MediaNama has more details (and links to court docs!) on PepsiCo’s social media purge.

PepsiCo has obtained an interim order from the Delhi High Court to delete hundreds of posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, documents obtained by MediaNama reveal. PepsiCo confirmed the development in a statement to MediaNama. These posts, PepsiCo said in its petition, furthered the myth that PepsiCo’s Kurkure corn puffs product contains plastic. The civil defamation suit compiles years of posts on the social media platforms, demanding that they be taken down. There are 3412 Facebook links, 20244 Facebook posts, 242 YouTube videos, 6 Instagram links, and 562 tweets that have been ordered removed.

This order [PDF] covers more than just content heavily insinuating PepsiCo’s Kurkure snack is made of plastic. It also covers posts joking about the subject or satirizing the mini-hysteria surrounding the suddenly-infamous snack. This followed another courtroom win in India for the snack maker.

Earlier this year, it obtained an order blocking social media posts claiming Lay’s potato chips were made of plastic. (It was also claimed the potato chips would kill those who consumed them, which they will, but eventually, not immediately.) PepsiCo, however, did not issue a statement at that time insisting Lay’s chips were a “100% safe, vegetarian snack made from trusted, high quality everyday kitchen ingredients.”

The social media posts drawing the most heat from Pepsi have been those in which the snack is lit on fire as evidence of its inherent dangerousness (and supposed plastic content). As Pepsi noted in its complaint, the snack product is indeed flammable, just as many snacks are.

“Any food item containing carbohydrate, oil and protein, will burn when exposed to fire,” the petition said, listing out a series of safety certifications its products and factories have received.

Companies are obviously interested in protecting their brands, but the interim blocking orders obtained by Pepsi target more than idiots claiming its snacks are as harmful as vaccinations. It also took down posts mocking the idiots because nuance and context are the first things to go when seeking takedowns at scale. This tweet mocks the spread of “news” on Whatsapp by listing a couple of bogus news items apparently making the rounds.

If you can’t read/see the screenshot, the Twitter conversation goes as follows:

Prasanto K Roy: For many, news breaks on WhatsApp. “Did you HEAR the news?!! Kurkure has plastic! Coke melts teeth” @ndcnn @gautamghosh @malabhargava

KurkureSnacks: @prasanto @ndcnn @GautamGhosh @malabhargava Kurkure is 100%safe made with rice,corn & besan.It doesn’t contain plastic.Don’t believe rumours

Prasanto K Roy: @KurkureSnacks yes I know; that was my point. The “news” on WhatsApp–isn’t.

The tweet has been withheld in India, despite Pepsi’s own response to one of the claims made and despite the Twitter user making it clear he was mocking the spread of bogus “facts.” (Pepsi did not offer to correct the record on Coke’s shocking ability to generate life “melt teeth.”)

The order Pepsi obtained not only demands the deletion/withholding of nearly 20,000 social media posts, but it also instructs the platforms to withhold/delete any post offending Pepsi until this case is fully adjudicated. This veers pretty close to prior restraint, something India’s Supreme Court has actually ruled against. The only thing saving it from becoming a free speech violation is the notification requirement, which means the “offending” content must first be published before Pepsi can demand to have it removed.

But it still stinks a bit like censorship. The Indian government is aiding PepsiCo’s reputation management scheme by granting this blanket request which ignores the context of certain users’ posts. In doing so, Pepsi is no better than any company that issues DMCA takedown requests based on keywords and deciding everything returned in a search must be infringing. In addition, Pepsi’s own filing shows the company has engaged in plenty of counterspeech, which is a remedy anyone can use without having to bring the government into it. Finally, the targets of Pepsi’s actions should be the people disparaging its products, not the social media companies hosting the content. But it’s always easier to target social media platforms than the actual offenders, especially in countries that don’t offer immunity to service providers for user-generated content.

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Companies: pepsi, pepsico

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Comments on “Indian Court Grants PepsiCo's Takedown Request Targeting Thousands Of 'Disparaging' Social Media Posts”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Yeah, what are they doing stating hard physical FACT?

This from a company whose principal product is sugar (carbohydrate) laden soda?

It’s outrageous. The nerve. Stating incontestable physical fact as though it’s relevant. It’s only useful for people who perceive reality.

Oh, and your wit entirely failed. Usually you’re adequate. [Whoops. By stating a very slight positive, I’ve now doomed you to attacks by fanboys.]

John85851 (profile) says:

Free speech comes with consequences

Again, people are free to say whatever they want, but there are consequences. If people claim that the snacks are made of plastic, then prove it. Otherwise, the statement is false and the person (and possibly the platform) could be sued for libel.

Is it censorship? Sure, but as much you wanting to delete any posts where someone says you eat puppies when you never have.

Anonymous Coward says:

"idiots claiming" -- There's the problem. Especially on TD.

interim blocking orders obtained by Pepsi target more than idiots claiming its snacks are as harmful as vaccinations.

What’s with mixing link to "anti-vaxxers"? Looks like your usual attempt to connect one "villain" to random other based on nothing but popped into mind while you string words together, with major lapse of NOT edited out because irrelevant. The sentence as written implies that both the snacks and vaccinations are harmful, so your clumsy complex mangling actually resulted in Truth.

countries that don’t offer immunity to service providers for user-generated content.

HUH? How does THAT work? According to Masnickism, it’s impossible! That immunity is ALL that allows social media to even exist! — You thereby support my peeve of the day, assertions on TD that Section 230 CDA isn’t new exception of immunity for host, unlike print publishing.

By the way, Pepsi is a Russian company and the word means "urine" in Russian. The corporation and its customers are distinctly weenies, always woozy liberals.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


Pepsi is a Russian company

That comes as news to me, considering PepsiCo is incorporated in North Carolina, the company headquarters is located in the state of New York, and the chair/CEO is a woman who was born in India and later became an American citizen.

the word means "urine" in Russian

моча means “urine”; Пепси is simply “Pepsi”.

If you are going to lie, at least make up lies that cannot be easily debunked by two Google searches, Wikipedia, and an English-to-Russian translation engine.

TDR says:

Re: Re: "idiots claiming" -- There's the problem. Especially on TD.

Just a question I’ve asked before when the subject of vaccines comes up, and so far no one has been able to provide a real answer to it. Would drug companies, whose sole concerns is their profits and the money-making abilities of their drugs and vaccines, ever allow a study to be performed whose results could threaten their cash cows? Would they ever allow any study to be performed where it could possibly be found that their drugs and vaccines may not be as safe and effective as they are made out to be? Would they not seek to stop or suppress any such study from ever being conducted or made public?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: A subject line

Question 1: Maybe. The question is so broad as to be impossible to answer with any specificity. There is no yes or no to this.

Question 2: Again, maybe. See answer to question 1.

Question 3: See answer to question 1.

The anti-vaccination movement started with a study that has been debunked as essentially fraudulent. The movement has resulted in the measurable recurrence of diseases that were, due to vaccinations, once rare or practically non-existent.

This threatens the health and livelihood of many people, especially those with weakened immune systems who, due to their physiology, are unable to be vaccinated.

Due to this, the anti-vax movement is anti-health, and anti-life. If you want to discuss this in any intelligent fashion, start from the data that has to do with the actual diseases. Start from the fact that people are getting sick, because herd immunity is failing.

If you dislike the practices of the pharmaceutical companies, attack those practices in a fashion that does not actively harm the people around you, and ask questions that have an actual meaning and that have an actual answer.

As it stands, you and the rest of the anti-vaxxer crowd may as well be slathering filth across the mouths and eyes of the people around you so that they will die of diseases that could otherwise have been eliminated.

May you achieve enlightenment.

TDR says:

Re: Re: Re:2 A subject line

Actually, I never once said I agreed with them. Simply asking the question doesn’t mean I do. It was just something I wondered in a devil’s advocate sort of way. You say the question is broad but you don’t say how. It’s simple yes or no question. Now I would appreciate my comment being unflagged because I was merely asking a question, not trolling or trying to get a rise out of anyone. Merely disagreeing with someone or what you think they support is not grounds for flagging.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A subject line

“It’s simple yes or no question”

It really, really was not. At least, not if you deal with reality rather than a simplistic “good vs evil” kind of scenario.

“Now I would appreciate my comment being unflagged”

I’m sure you would. Unfortunately, that means that enough people thought that you deserved it to trigger the hiding of your post, and those people would have to reverse that flag for it to be unhidden. For the record, though, my initial response to you was after it had been hidden.

“Merely disagreeing with someone or what you think they support is not grounds for flagging.”

You didn’t merely disagree. You asked a bunch of anti-vaxxer questions to which it’s impossible to an answer that’s acceptable to the kind of person who would seriously ask them. That does appear to be a trolling tactic, even if it was not your intention to do so.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A subject line

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re not aware that the "just asking questions" defense is frequently employed by dishonest people deliberately asking leading questions.

You made a beeline for a controversial topic, asked a provocative question that suggests a fundamental ignorance of logic and the scientific method, and then defended it by JAQing off. Maybe you did all those things by accident. In which case hey, now you know that those are the kinds of things trolls do, and maybe you shouldn’t do them.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "idiots claiming" -- There's the problem. Especially on TD.

Would drug companies…ever allow a study to be performed whose results could threaten their cash cows? Would they ever allow any study to be performed where it could possibly be found that their drugs and vaccines may not be as safe and effective as they are made out to be?

Your questions presuppose that pharmaceutical companies can consistently prevent studies from being performed or published. You should first prove this assertion.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "idiots claiming" -- There's the problem. Especially on TD.

You see, I think this is what he means. Any study that was anywhere near the people working in the field is tainted in their eyes. Meanwhile, the lack of any independent studies mean that there must be a cover up. The fact that there isn’t a study proving problems with vaccines greater than their benefits can’t possibly mean that there aren’t any to be found, it means there’s a conspiracy!

Meanwhile, the entire anti-vaccine movement literally started from a single paper whose author later admitted he made it up to try and help sell a product he was involved with.

These people are impossible to deal with. It would be laughable if they weren’t actually hurting people with this bullshit.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "idiots claiming" -- There's the problem. Especially on TD.

I understand that people who engage with things like this are insecure individuals who want to find a way to make themselves special. Being in on a secret that the powerful are trying to keep hits that spot by persuading them that, given sufficient popularity, and therefore leverage, they could bring their targets crashing down.

This basic Boogeyman politics; there’s a boogeyman (Big Pharma) and a scapegoat (vaccines) they allege to be in league with the boogeyman. They will bash at the scapegoat more than the boogeyman because they actually need the boogeyman. The scapegoat can easily be replaced. Sooner or later they’ll move on from vaccines and find another scapegoat to bash. It’s the pretense of fighting the boogeyman and its allies that gives these people their power — and gets them the attention they crave. Watch them make the boogeyman as scary as possible and present the scapegoat as a sneaky little bugger with nefarious intent. It’s really fascinating.

This is what puts me off when someone is being demonized. The more histrionics, the less I pay attention, particularly when the person is being linked to a boogeyman. That’s the scapegoat, people. Don’t play along.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "idiots claiming" -- There's the problem. Especially on TD.

The main problem is that, as I noted, once people believe in this kind of thing deeply enough, there’s literally nothing that can change their mind.

Evidence that disproves them is fabricated. Showing it to them means you’re “one of them. People who change their minds are traitors to the cause. Anti-vaxxers have literally decried Andrew Wakefield as a fraud for admitting that he fabricated his study, even though that’s the only shred of evidence the whole thing is based upon in the first place.

But, since most of the people who think like that got their start from Jenny McCarthy rather than the original medical study, that doesn’t matter…

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