Faisal Farooqui, founder, Mouthshut, who also challenged the government on the inclusion of section 66A in the IT Act, talks to FE’s Avanish Tiwary about why he was forced to take the legal route and what opportunities it brings to the digital ecosystem. Mouthshut is an online start-up that allows users to post product reviews, which helps other users to decide which product or service to use. Edited excerpts:
Your experience at Mouthshut that led you to challenge the section 66A of the IT Act?
Mouthshut was always based on an open platform for people to freely express their opinion about different products. It’s all about reviews, opinions, etc. and as we became popular, more and more brands started getting worried. It was the time when the concept of user-generated reviews was becoming popular. We started receiving a lot of legal notices, which must be more than 1,000, and we asked them to get court orders if they wanted to us remove any review.
They couldn’t get court orders as they couldn’t prove, except for a few cases, that the reviews were defamatory. Then they took a different route.
They went to the cyber crime department that wanted us to reveal the IP address from which reviews were posted, so that they could arrest that person directly. That was when things went cracking in our head.
We said this is scary. Because if people get scared while posting reviews on Mouthshut, we will practically shut down. That is when we decided to take the legal route and we said we want protection not only for Mouthshut’s users but all internet users, irrespective of where and what they are posting online. It’s a great verdict for Indians and people who use internet.
How will business change after this?
I think we will go berserk in terms of our promotions as well as operations. In the last two and a half years, we were waiting and watching how this lawsuit will go. All these years we were going a little slow and we were not very aggressive in our growth. But this has given us a lot of protection and opportunity.
The Supreme Court judgment said we need not remove anything unless a court order asks us to do so, which was what we said in the beginning. I feel, not just Mouthshut, but the entire digital ecosystem will take off from here.
As far as Mouthshut is concerned you will see 20-30x growth in the next two years. I have already started receiving calls from VCs who want me to now grow the business at rocket speed, which we are going to do.