WhiteHat Jr withdraws defamation suit against vocal critic

Edtech firm WhiteHat Jr and its founder Karan Bajaj have withdrawn the $2.6-million defamation suit they filed last November against Pradeep Poonia, a vocal critic of the company, Poonia told ET. WhiteHat Jr, which is owned by edtech giant Byju’s, teaches coding to children. 

The company had sent the legal notice to Poonia last November for allegedly defaming it and infringing on its “registered and unregistered trademarks”. Poonia told ET: “WhiteHat Jr withdrew their case against me before the Delhi High Court. This is a lesson that corporations like WhiteHat Jr and Byjus, and social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, and Youtube can’t dictate terms.”

Byju’s declined to comment. The Delhi High Court had issued and ad-interim order to Poonia in the case in late November and ordered him to take down specific tweets in which he alleged, among other things, that WhiteHat Jr was a ponzi scheme. It also ordered him not to hack into the company’s personal communications on Slack and share chats between WhiteHat Jr and its employees on YouTube.

An ad campaign by WhiteHate JR -- around a child named Wolf Gupta -- also came up during the hearing. Poonia said the ads claimed that Wolf Gupta was employed by Google with a salary of Rs 20 crore, which suggested he was a real person. But, he claimed, Wolf Gupta was in fact a fictional character meant to mislead children and their parents. Poonia told ET at the time, “WhiteHatJr has been systematically trying to shut down criticism. 

They have created fictional children who earn Rs 20 crore, attributed false accomplishments, such as a TedX talk that never was, and have made baseless claims. My intention is only to expose these false and unethical business practices.” Last October, advertising regulatory body ASCI had asked WhiteHat Jr to withdraw five of its ads which claimed children as young as six and seven could develop apps that would have investors lining up.

 These ads had gone live in August. Poonia told ET, “I feel it’s not just our right but our duty to fight for our freedom of speech. Whether it is the education sector or any other sector, whether you are a student, consumer, or parent, their employee, or just a concerned citizen, the strength of your voice depends on your perseverance.”

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