Case against social web companies streamlined

The frivolous complaint asking more than 22 Internet companies to remove and censor content is now just against Google and Facebook. The next hearing on the case is scheduled for May 23.
Written by Manan Kakkar, Contributor

The Internet giants are facing some interesting times in India. As the country grapples with adopting the Internet as a medium of communication and interaction, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Google and some other companies were ordered to take down certain content that was considered offensive and objectionable. The government at one point suggested Facebook, Google implement some sort of pre-screening mechanisms so that objectionable content does not find its way on the Internet. That did not go down well and the minister later backtracked. However, a zealous citizen decided to file charges against these companies asking the court to get certain objectionable content removed. The content being talked about here is unacceptable depiction of religious figures. A case was made against 22 companies off which most were not social media websites and did not have users uploading content, Microsoft and Yahoo for example.

An enthusiastic protector of society and everything law threatened that companies will face China-like drastic rules if they did not figure out a way to remove the content. A High Court judge of India decided that it was time India gave up democracy and adopted the Chinese way of life. At this point, all hell broke lose and Internet users in India were angry. Not just at the fact that the government and legal system were finding ways to censor the Internet but they would go to lengths of declaring China-like laws and policies for a country that is known for its democracy and freedom of speech.

While all this was happening, the IT Act was amended giving courts the authority to direct Internet Service Providers to take down objectionable content. The amendment was vague and subjective. The law is now being reviewed and netizens in India have come together against the law.

Meanwhile, back to the case against Facebook and Google... We saw a ray of hope and rationality when the courts dropped several companies including Indian subsidiaries from the case. As it stands now, Google US, Facebook (India and US), YouTube, Blogger, and Orkut are the companies being looked into. Essentially, out of the 22 companies being frivolously named in the complaint just two will continue facing legal troubles. The case against Facebook and Google was expected to be heard in the Delhi High Court in May, the case has been adjourned to August which means that the case against these companies in the lower courts will proceed and the next hearing is scheduled for the 23rd of this month.

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