Censored Landscape

Facebook And Google Remove ‘Offensive’ Material From Indian Sites

Indian court orders 21 major internet firms to prevent ‘anti-religious’ or ‘anti-social’ content from appearing on their sites

On by Jiten Karia 0

Google and Facebook have submitted to a court order to remove ‘objectionable’ content from their Indian sites.

The two parties are part of a group of 21 major web companies given two weeks by a New Delhi court to devise and submit methods of preventing offensive material appearing on their sites.

Offended sensibilities

The high court has reportedly told Facebook and Google India to “develop a mechanism to keep a check and remove offensive and objectionable material from their website”. The threat against non-compliance was a censorship campaign “like China”.

“(Our) review team has looked at the content and disabled this content from the local domains of (Google) search, YouTube and Blogger,” Google spokeswoman Paroma Roy Chowdhury told Reuters, though not specifying what content had been censored.

The demands of the Delhi court relate to a law passed last year which makes any website responsible for the user content posted on it. The law requires a site’s operators to remove any reported offensive content within 36 hours.

Monday’s civil case was brought by Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasm, a scholar, who stated that the sites were hosting religiously intolerant material. A second, criminal case will be heard in March. The petitioner, Indian journalist Vinay Rai, said to Reuters: “If the companies have actually removed some content, they should put in place a mechanism to do it regularly, instead of waiting for a court case every time”.

The issue many of the 21 companies have highlighted is that they cannot curate all user content in real-time, let alone devise a scheme that prevents it appearing at all. Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Facebook are currently appealing the court’s decision.

The BBC also reports that NK Kaul, a lawyer for Google, said at an earlier court hearing that the matter related “to a constitutional issue of freedom of speech and expression, and suppressing it was not possible as the right to freedom of speech in democratic India separates us from a totalitarian regime like China.”

The situation in India follows recent news that Twitter and Google Blogger would begin filtering content on a ‘per country’ basis, with the later using country-coded Top Level Domains to automate the process.

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