Facebook and Google Remove Content After Warning from India's Courts
Are Internet firms and social media hosts responsible for user content? In India, it probably is.
Google Inc and Facebook have removed allegedly offensive material from Indian domain websites, following a court directive that forewarned of a "China-like" crackdown if the directive wasn't heeded. A total of 21 Internet firms involved in private criminal and civil lawsuits, including Google and Facebook, have been ordered by a New Delhi court to develop mechanisms to block religiously unsavory material, after petitioners sued them over images deemed to be offensive to Muslims, Hindus and Christians.
Supposedly obscene images of Indian politicians and religious figures have since been removed by Google and Facebook. Paroma Roy Chowdhury, Google’s spokeswoman in India, told AFP that this act was in accordance with Google's policy of responding to court orders. India passed a law in 2011 which makes companies responsible for user content, and these firms have up to 36 hours to eradicate entries if a complaint arises. According to Reuter's report, both companies claimed it wasn't possible for them to block such content only a month before. Chowdhury declined to comment on what was removed specifically, while a Facebook representative only said that the company would release a statement later.
Yahoo and Microsoft, on the other hand, have disputed the move from the Indian government. They have appealed to the Delhi High Court asking for the case to be quashed on the basis that they cannot be held responsible for actions of users on their platforms.
This crackdown on "unacceptable" online content was initiated by Communications Minister Kapil Sibal in December, who cited that Internet service providers have ignored India's demands to filter uploaded images and data. Expectedly, online users in India were naturally rattled and non too pleased by Sibal's proposal to screen content such as photos, comments and videos posted online.