Google, Facebook remove content after Indian court order

Google has agreed before a court in Delhi to remove religious and other content considered objectionable, though some other Internet firms are likely to appeal the court’s decision, plaintiff Mufti Ajiaz Arshad Qasmi said today.

According to Reuters, Facebook has also agreed to take some content down as well.
Qasmi, a private citizen, had filed a civil suit against Google and other Internetcompanies including Facebook, objecting to certaincontent on their Web sites. The content is said to mock gods worshippedin India. He is now pressing the companies to put in place technologyfor filtering out content that is considered objectionable.

“This step is in accordance with Google’s long-standing policy ofresponding to court orders,” a Google spokeswoman in India said.

India has been sensitive tocertain political and religious content on Web sites, and the country’sminister for communications, Kapil Sibal, said in December thatInternet companies should evolve a mechanism to remove objectionablecontent immediately after it is put up.

Google told the court of civil judge Praveen Singh that it had alreadyremoved some of the objectionable content, and promised to remove theremaining content pointed out by Qasmi in the 15 days given to it andother Internet companies to take down the content, Qasmi said.

In a separate criminal suit filed in Delhi by a newspaper editor, VinayRai, against objectionable content on Web sites of 21 Internetcompanies including Google and Facebook, Google India has argued thatit is not responsible for third-party content, and in any case thesites are not owned and operated by Google India but its parentcompany, Google Inc.

The government allowed the court to prosecute the Internet companiesunder various Indian laws in the criminal case, but Google hasmeanwhile appealed the decision before the Delhi High Court.

“They are saying a different thing before each court,” Rai said today.”In the civil matter they have agreed to remove the content, which theyhad refused to remove in the criminal court.”

The criminal case, however, holds Google responsible for thethird-party content, and also named its officials as liable, said aperson close to the situation, who declined to be named. The civil caseis entirely about removal of certain content, the person added.

Google said last month it was directing users to localized countrydomains on Blogger to provide it flexibility to comply with contentremoval rules in various countries. Twitter also decided last monthto withhold certain content from users in a specific country, whenrequired by local laws, while keeping it available to the rest of theworld.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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