Children-focused coding training platform WhiteHat Jr on Tuesday withdrew a Rs 20 crore defamation lawsuit filed against Pradeep Poonia, an engineer who publicly criticised the edtech startup’s marketing tactics.
“WhiteHatJr withdrew their case before Delhi High Court. This is a win for every one of us. Corporates like WhiteHat Jr and BYJU'S, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, and YouTube aren't above our freedom of expression,” Poonia wrote on LinkedIn.
Poonia is a Bengaluru based software engineer, who went by the name Whitehat Sr on his social media handles and YouTube channel.
In September 2020, social media was abuzz with allegations of WhiteHat Jr’s misleading advertisements. A total of 15 complaints were filed with the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) over seven such advertisements. Videos showing WhiteHat Jr teachers as inexperienced professionals also surfaced on multiple social media platforms.
The same month, Poonia, in a video, challenged WhiteHat Jr’s claim that one of its students, Wolf Gupta, had bagged a job at Google. Poonia called the Bengaluru based company’s marketing campaigns a “Ponzi scheme”. He also called out the startup for posting fake five-star reviews of its app and said that the company was also having critical posts taken off social media websites.
In November, WhiteHat Jr filed a lawsuit against Poonia, accusing him of defaming the coding startup, hacking into its servers to access internal communications as well as violating its trademark and copyrights.
Subsequently, it received an ad-interim injunction from the Delhi High Court. Poonia was asked to remove unsubstantiated tweets against the startup, including those calling the platform's activities a "Ponzi scheme", as well as videos that displayed the company’s proprietary content or internal communications. The order also restricted him from downloading or distributing WhiteHat Jr’s study material, hacking or accessing its internal communications, commenting on the quality of its teachers, and using the name WhiteHat Sr online.
You can see a timeline of events leading to the defamation case here.
An email sent to Byju’s did not elicit an immediate response.
The complaint alleged that the Malpani was "continuously and incessantly posting false and defamatory tweets which are causing severe damage” to the startup’s reputation and business.
Like Poonia, Malpani was also restrained from making defamatory commentary against WhiteHat Jr and its employees by the Delhi High Court.