Facebook, Google, Yahoo and India’s Laws

India, the world’s largest democracy is the third country after Brazil and Germany  expecting that Twitter,  Facebook and Google will block objectionable content or Government will take action on it.  Indian regulations oblige Internet companies to remove material that is “grossly harmful” or “ethnically objectionable”.  Some web giants may be allegedly committing the offence punishable under section 292 (sale of obscene books etc), 293 (sale of obscene objects to young person etc) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

Internet search giants Google and Yahoo! are being investigated for possible violations of the country’s foreign exchange law, a government official said, intensifying pressure on them as they wage a legal battle over screening of ‘objectionable’ content on their websites.  — Google, Yahoo! under fire; Enforcement Directorate to probe forex law violation social_media_india

On December 23 a lower court issued summons to 21 websites, including Google and Facebook, for allegedly committing offences of criminal conspiracy, sale of obscene books and obscene objects to young persons.

India’s minister of state for communications and technology warned Facebook, Google and other Web firms that they must conform to India’s laws if they want to operate in the country. Minister Sachin Pilot told IBN that there is simply no other option:

“Be it a social media website or any other site on internet, they all have to operate within the laws of the country and they should be accountable and responsible for what they put up on their web pages.” —  via Facebook, Google Urged to Comply with Indian Laws.

 infographic image credit

Google  and Facebook removed content from some Indian domain websites on Monday following a court directive warning them of a crackdown “like China” if they did not take steps to protect religious sensibilities.

Facebook India on Monday filed its compliance report before the Delhi Court which had ordered it and 21 other websites to remove objectionable content from their websites.

Google India also told the court that it has removed certain web pages from the Internet on which objections were raised by the petitioners.

The Delhi High Court refused Yahoo India’s plea for staying a trial court’s proceedings against it for allegedly hosting objectionable contenton its website and adjourned the case until March 1. — Objectionable matter: Yahoo plea for staying case refused

Discussion

I think it’s impossible for search engines to block every bit of information that religious groups may choose to find objectionable.  It’s likewise impossible for a social network to pre-screen and monitor everything posted. It seems to me that users should be held responsible for content they post.  What do you think?

21 thoughts on “Facebook, Google, Yahoo and India’s Laws

  1. I don’t think censorship is the answer, although i also believe that some kind of “filtering” may be needed to stop adverse effects on the innocent users. The bigger question than how can we sensor the vast Internet is, who will do the sensorship, which is unanswerable. I think that this media should be kept as it is and should not be sensored.

    In the case of India, I will be really really shocked it they *really* block any of the sites: Google, Faceboo, Twitter.

    Some torrent sites are although blocked in India (temporary?) if you try to access them through cetain service providers. I think this censorship is pointless, as torrent is yet another form of media and perfectly legal, but it is unfortunate that it’s use is also done to curculate illegal digital copies of files.

    I can only hope that responsible rational people take the decisions.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I’ve read it several times now. I have no personal knowledge of India. Attempts to legalize censorship like this cannot be effective given the nature of the interent. There will be back-doors without doubt.

  3. Some of the reactions are indeed humorous, like the courts appeasing the muslims, and inference to call centers and casteism related to censorship of internet in India.

    Let me put forward another angle to it. The main reason for govt trying to control the internet, was the protest being led by a social activist, Anna Hazare, against corruption in the government. So much so that people were coming out on streets making the ruling party nervous about the whole affair. This was the time when uprising in Egypt was happening and social media had become the rallying point against the government in India. Majority of the attacks (on social media) were targeted at the ruling party president who is an Italian by birth and married into India and what was said about her was not nice.

    Government wanted to control the social and search sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google etc, that it wanted power to switch them off and on as per their convenience. By taking up the matter in court they have down the ground work from legal point of view. Next time, they will be able to completely shut down the social and search engine sites if they want.

    Another point is the ‘war’ which is fought by Indian and Pakistani netizians which ultimately ends up into Hindus and Muslims abusing each other relegions. Now there are more Muslims in India than Pakistan which again goes against sensabilities of Indian Muslims creating ill will among communities. How far censorship will help is still debatable but then governments are notorious for taking the easy way out.

    More than the religious sentiments, it is the attack against one particular political family on social media that now the government is hell bent on controlling the internet. Since we are a *democracy* government is trying to legalise the censorship through courts, which will ultimately rule in favor of the government as the law is heavily in favor of the govt.

  4. Social media is playing a great job in promoting blogs (only). But the young generation is spoiling there is India and Pakistan. I think censorship is the best thing to inhibit those destruction of eastern civilizations and demolishing religion. But this can not be done so easily as TT mentioned earlier. They can not censor every single post on Facebook. Once Facebook had been blocked in Pakistan for weeks due to some controversial issues. I don’t think India is going to do something like that. If this happens then Facebook will have to bear a huge loss.

  5. Not here to comment on the article really. Simply wanted to thank you for your help in answering my question about scheduling posts. The information was greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  6. As one who lobbied heavily to avoid taking military action after 9/11, I remember the attitude of the American govt (specifically GW Bush) toward anyone who took such a position. Freedom of speech is an illusion in most political systems/states!

    • Julie you are right. It’s just a matter of degree that North America may have abit more flexibility for self-expression compared to India or China.

  7. Hmmmm, we’ll see.

    Do remember that India has a huge overseas diaspora of those who have gone overseas to live, have families and take citizenship of new country but there is still some strong business / family ties between India and other democracies world-wide.

    I absolutely don’t doubt the strength of at least the East Indian/South Asian Diaspora globally voice their protests on this censorship development.

    And find other back doors.

    I see the entrepreneurship, creativity and speed of the local Indians same as the Chinese: they will overcome this in time, mark my words. :)

    • The reason why I say that is that India is a country of contrasts that still has: caste system (still exists even though the East Indian liberals and intelligentsia are trying to dismantle this), rare honour killings of women, arranged marriages …. contrast against some university educated folks both men and women who have excelled in their disciplines, a thriving movie industry (Bollywood), bhangra dance etc.

      it is the same country that Canada and U.S. tolerate or are resigned to the fact, that technology call centres have been outsourced to companies located in India.. among other things.

      and the same country that suffered civil war, threw off colonialism from Great Britian on late 1940’s.

      Man what India has survived as a country…makes Internet censorship a smaller, but important item in their socio-political history.

      • Having looked at this further it looks as though this is a case of appeasing the Muslims. The petitions for removal come from a Muslim, and this puts the court in a difficult position. In the West when someone does something that the Muslims don’t like, like the pastor burning the Qur’an or the south-park episode then it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in policing, and maybe they try to blow up a studio or something.

        In India a similar thing will cause the Muslims to kill hundreds of people. Very often people will fight back, which is seen as another offence to Muslims. There are many incidents where the Muslims killed people for some perceived insults (like the Gujurat riots, where Muslims burned train carriages full of men women and children while blocking the exits because they heard an “insulting song” being sung), the non-Muslims fought back and the Muslims now speak of it as an attack against them!

        The long and short of it is the Indian courts probably didn’t care if censorship was implemented or not, their aim was to appease the Muslims, so as long as it looks as though they are doing all possible then its OK. Of course this ultimately won’t get them anywhere, places which have tried Muslim appeasement before have seen that they won’t be happy unless the only websites allowed are pro-Muslim.

        • I also researched the “complaints” that led to this matter to the courts. I respect everyone’s right to choose to embrace any religion they want to embrace. However, I will never ever stop criticizing religions. The most dangerous human invention to date has been religions. There we see a history of zealots, who state their religions are based on love for all and hatred of none, but who kill in the name of their gods and prophets.Anyone who claims their god is omnipotent and then replaces that god by acting on its presumed behalf by killing others, who do not embrace the same belief system is hypocrite and a criminal.

          I concur also with your final paragraph. This is all about appeasement.

  8. I think that what they are doing with blogger/blogspot is interesting. It seems to me that they are doing the minimum to comply with the law. If you are in India and try to access “myblog.blogspot.com” you will be redirected to myblog.blogspot.in. The Indian google search will also return the myblog.blogspot.in site. This is so that they can censor the .in site and leave the ,com site uncensored.

    The thing is that they also allow a back-door to the .com site, from the link above:

    Blog readers may request a specific country version of the blogspot content by entering a specially formatted “NCR” URL.

    NCR stands for “No Country Redirect” and will always display buzz.blogger.com in English, whether you’re in India, Brazil, Honduras, Germany, or anywhere.

    For example: http://%5Bblogname%5D.blogspot.com/ncr – always goes to the U.S. English blog.

    It will be interesting to see what the governments do next. They might be unhappy that google, etc are leaving a backdoor, or they might be happy that all casual browsers will see the censored domain – and that those who deliberately bypass censorship will be committing an offence that they can deal with in their courts. After all whatever google do, short of censoring all blogs to the lowest common denominator of all countries – there will be ways to bypass it.

    I would not be at all surprised if these governments go after smaller companies like WordPress.com following their success with google and yahoo – I would strongly advise anyone who has a politcal blog and wants to retain readership to get a custom domain.

    • Hi Tandava,
      Thanks so much for the clarity. I appreciate you taking time to explain how this operates and how it doesn’t ie. the backdoor. I do agree that there will always be ways to bypass censorship and it will be interesting to see where this all leads to in terms of what the courts uphold and what and government does.

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