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Indian court warns 'China-like censorship' for Google, Facebook, others

The High Court in India is warning it will ban websites Facebook, Google, Yahoo etc 'like China' if they do not comply with requests to remove offensive content.

Delhi's High Court has warned Google, Facebook, Yahoo and others they will be 'blocked' in India if they fail to check and censor content.

Justice Suresh Kait warned, "Like China, we too can block such websites".

The sites have been advised to create a mechanism to remove "offensive and objectionable" content from their services.

The case began with a complaint from journalist Vinay Rai. Representatives of the 21 companies in total were summoned to court. Last month a civil judge gave the sites a deadline to remove all "anti-social" and "anti-religious" content by February 6th.

Google and Facebook hold a global policy of non-interference, but the companies have been warned that this policy will not work in India.

Lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, who spoke for Google India, said that it isn't possible to monitor posts in that way. "No human interference is possible. Moreover, it can't be feasible to check such incidents. Billions of people post their articles on the website". He added, "They may be defamatory and obscene, but cannot be checked".

Rohatgi also took pains to distinguish Google India from U.S.-based Google Inc., reminding the court that they cannot be held liable for alleged offenses against them. "It is a criminal case where a vicarious liability cannot be fastened on a company which has no role, whatsoever, the alleged case".

The representative for Facebook India, Siddarth Luthra, also argued that the company could not be held responsible for acts of third parties.

It is a tall order to ask services as vast as Google and Facebook to remove all 'anti-social' and 'anti-religious' content, when the huge amount of users involved is taken into account. The way in which the court would directly compare their ability to 'ban' websites to China is equally worrying.

Considering that Google withdrew from China over censorship issues, could India be leading towards similar circumstances with this ongoing court proceeding?

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