India OKs censoring Facebook, Google, Microsoft, YouTube

India OKs censoring Facebook, Google, Microsoft, YouTube

Summary: The Indian government has sanctioned the prosecution of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube, and 16 others. India warned these websites it can block them just like China can.

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Update: Facebook, Google argue against Web censorship in India

The Indian government has given the green light for the prosecution of "21 social networking sites." The list features 10 foreign-based companies, and could affect websites provided by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and YouTube. The recent development is part of an ongoing argument between the companies and India over whether content should be regulated (read: censored) in the country. The approval was actually made on December 23, 2011, but was only revealed today.

Earlier this week, Delhi's High Court warned various companies they will be blocked in India if they fail to check and censor content. When counsel for Facebook and Google pointed to their global policy of non-interference even if content posted on their services are found to be obscene or objectionable, the court told the Internet firms that this policy won't work in India. "Like China, we too can block such websites," said Justice Suresh Kait.

Before today's news, I got in touch with Manan Kakkar, ZDNet's journalist for all things related to India, and he told me he wasn't interested in the story. "But just as a side note, it's not India that's made the threat but a high court judge in a city," Kakkar told me "Then there's the Supreme Court above this so I'm not giving much credence to this." He then pointed out Google said it can't censor such content and I remembered Facebook also said it won't help India censor the Web.

This all changed, however, when Kakkar followed up to tell me the Indian government today sanctioned the court's stance. "The sanctioning authority has personally gone through the entire records and materials produced before him and after considering and examining the same, he is satisfied that there is sufficient material to proceed against the accused persons under section 153-A, 153-B and 295-A of the IPC," the report said according to IBN Live.

Earlier in the day, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo India, and others had sought exemption from the Delhi court because they argued the matter is still pending before the High Court. After the counsel said over 10 out of 21 companies named as accused in the case were foreign-based, the court agreed it had to it had to serve the summons on them, which came in the form of a two-page report from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

That's when the approval from the Indian government was revealed. While this is a big deal, the case is far from over. "Let the process (to serve the summons) on (foreign- based) accused be sent through the MEA as per the process," Metropolitan Magistrate Sudesh Kumar said. "The accused are allowed exemption for today only but are directed to appear in person on the next date of hearing without fail." The next hearing is scheduled for March 13, 2012.

The case first began with a private complaint filed by journalist Vinay Rai against these firms for allegedly webcasting objectionable content. More specifically, he complained about images deemed offensive to Christians, Hindus, and Muslims. Representatives of the 21 companies were thus summoned to court and a long proceeding began. Despite the statement about China, I hope India won't go down the same path.

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Topics: Microsoft, Google, Government, Government US, Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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19 comments
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  • They should all pull their developers out of India

    let them do it themselves.
    William Farrel
    • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

      @William Farrel Agreed!
      athynz
    • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

      @William Farrel if they did that, they would be standing there beside themselves for quite some time.

      Thank-you come again!
      TGGR
    • You pull you lose.

      @William Farrel
      You pull you lose . Good brains find places elsewhere. Dont be negative bud. I understand your frustration and anger and I am with you all the way. Think of a positive solution and I shall appreciate that. BK
      bkthirumalai
      • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

        @bkthirumalai They pull out and India wouldn't have a pot to piss in. Indian developers wouldn't have access to Google or Microsoft's product. They wouldn't be allowed to develop for their products. Then what?
        jhammackHTH
  • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

    I heard India is a Democracy? Have I got that wrong?
    Perhaps those judges and other officials are worried about their bribe culture being uncovered by honest Indian people using Facebook and Twitter?
    ThoseReplies
    • Govts are having a hard time dealing with the internet

      @ThoseReplies It makes it difficult for them to keep pushing their lies.

      And why is Democracy so great? Democracy is just a code word for mob rule.
      otaddy
      • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

        @otaddy Yes there is some lovely muck over here!
        TGGR
      • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

        @otaddy Yes there is some lovely muck over here!
        TGGR
      • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

        @otaddy Yes there is some lovely muck over here!
        TGGR
  • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

    "if they fail to check and censor content."

    SOPA/PIPA not much different.
    wendellgee2
  • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

    I am hopeful such a measure will distinguish truth from indecent. When it does, it will put a check on a cowardly practice of using material that causes our younger generation to be rushed into adulthood.
    AdiseshK
  • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

    India has a democracy, China doesn't. If they do it, I don't see this sticking. Imagine cutting of Indians to Google and Facebook, that's a hell of a lot of people who won't be able to access two lynch-pins of the Internet.
    bradavon
  • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

    There are probably US corporations readying sales flying squads to go to India right now to sell them any equipment and expertise they might need to censor the net and to track down any scofflaws. There is plenty of experience here in enforcing draconian laws on Internet users around the world and loads of money to be made in doing it.
    zdnetaaaaaaaaa15
  • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

    There's really no need of censoring content. In a democracy, it'll not be worthwhile. Imagine filtering updates from millions of people and deciding which is "obscene" or not. Difficult for the companies. The obscene content is posted by a specific category of users. The company's not at fault, these users are, prosecuting companies won't do any good. If the users want to upload "objectionable" content, they will be able to do as there are many sites which allow uploading. Will government prosecute each and every company? Maybe, government should not become like the Chinese
    MayankSingh_781
  • Emil Protalinski- please try to understand the meaning of the word 'censor'

    Emil - please get a grip on yourself. What you have written is a disgrace to the technology journalism profession. It is clear that you neither have an understanding of India or how technology monitoring and filtering is supposed to work.

    What google, facebook and yahoo have built is a massive platform, which has a majority market-share in the way people view content/news/information online. They NEED to take responsibility for the content that is hosted on their platforms. By giving credence to allow them (and in fact hail them as the torch-bearers of freedom of speech) all we are doing is allowing them to shirk from doing a responsible job. It is the same as saying that once Walmart has entered a particular country and gained a 75% market share, they should be allowed to sell any and every kind of product that they like (be it narcotics, arms, etc). Of course, walmart cannot be allowed to peddle any thing that they like under the freedom garb. Then why should Google, Facebook not be able to do a better job at managing their content.
    ronzensci
    • Managing it how?

      @ronzensci

      The ruling party want's an opponent's comments blocked? So it is?

      Someone else see's another company product's outselling the local product? So block people from seeing it?

      Someone blocks the police or government arresting a protestor?

      What is it exactly are they supposed to manage?
      William Farrel
      • Re: Managing it how?

        @William Farrel The issue here is about violating indian law- not about removing content about other company's product. Any information that breaks the law should be edited. Simple as that. Google+ is putting its might behind trying to ensure people use their "real name" and that photos on it are not offensive (I know of a case where they "censored" a photo where a middle finger was shown). Hence, when its in their interest, they surely do "censor" content. So when some other content on a different part of their platform (even Google Search) is found to be offensive - isn't it their responsibility to make sure any content which is linked from their search engine is passing some basic criteria of not breaking laws.

        I just feel these large companies are reluctant to get into content editing because they don't want to employ high quality editors - and just keep doing things in an automated fashion- that suits their high pace of growth.
        ronzensci
  • RE: India to prosecute Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube

    I think the "Chinese" issue has something to do with this. Based on the proximity of the two countries, coupled with China's growing international power and influence, it probably pays to be another south-Asian country in line with Chinese policy. Unfortunately, as India i also striving to grow in both domestic and foreign business markets, this will come back to bite them in the ass. One way to absolutely deter the growth of business ideas and policy is to smother the voices of the people, and THEIR related ideas. Poor choice for India, but an understandable one.
    James Keenan