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Sun 25 Dec 2011 06:30 PM

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Indian courts challenge Facebook, Google content

US-based internet firms asked to remove material considered religiously offensive

Indian courts challenge Facebook, Google content
(above) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. India has 100 million internet users

US companies Facebook, Google and Yahoo, and other internet firms, have been ordered by two Indian courts to remove material considered religiously offensive, the latest skirmish in a growing battle over website content in the world's largest democracy.

One court in the capital Delhi on Friday issued summons to 19 companies to stand trial for offences relating to distributing obscene material to minors, after being shown images it said were offensive to Hindus, Muslims and Christians, the PTI news agency said.

"The accused in connivance with each other and other unknown persons are selling, publicly exhibiting and have put into circulation obscene, lascivious content, Metropolitan Magistrate Sudesh Kumar said on Friday in the PTI report.

India has generally unrestricted access to the internet for those of its 1.2 billion people who can afford it and are on the electrical and telephone grids.

So far only about a tenth of the population uses the web, but with the number of connections growing fast in the religiously conservative society, concerns about the nature of web content are growing in some quarters, including senior government officials.

Another Delhi court earlier this week told the websites to remove photographs, videos or text which might hurt religious sentiments.

"We believe that access to information is the foundation of a free society," a Google spokesman said in an emailed statement. "Where content is illegal or breaks our terms of service we will continue to remove it."

The spokesman said the company had not yet been officially notified of the courts' action.

The courts and the other companies were not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this month, Telecoms Minister Kapil Sibal urged Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to remove offensive material, unleashing a storm of criticism from internet users complaining of censorship.

The Delhi court cases were brought by individuals, one by a journalist and the other by an Islamic scholar who runs a website called fatwaonline.org that gives answers to moral questions.

Despite rules to remove offensive content, India's internet access is largely free when compared with tight controls in fellow Asian economic powerhouse China. But in line with many other governments around the world, India has become increasingly nervous about the power of social media.

India has 100 million internet users, the third-largest user base behind China and the United States which is forecast to grow to 300 million users in the next three years.

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MON 7 years ago

OFFENSIVE ,IMMORAL AND OBSCENE CONTENTS MUST BE REMOVED .OTHERWISE IT WILL BECOME A DISASTER WITHOUT ESCAPE .IT WOULD BE MILLION TIMES WORSE THAN THE DAMAGES BEING DONE TO THE NATURE BY MAN KIND.

Calvin Pinto 7 years ago

The internet is the only space where the democratic right of free speech can be exercised. Sure, we can accept the the flipside is that people take advantage of that freedom to post inflammatory content.

But the opposite is also true. the critics of free speech on social networking site can also use their powers to censor any content which they feel offensive, amoral or obscene.

What one find morally right might offend the other.

procan 7 years ago

Nicely said, love hearing and open minded person like your self speaking freely, and thanks AB for providing this format some of my comment do not make it to publication but I am sure AB censors must enjoy some of the comment themselves even thou they are may be not able to allow them to be aired . I am a big fan you guys are on the right road thanks so much avid reader.

Jake 7 years ago

What are you talking about, the contrary is the case.

Just handle internet content like you would handle these kind of situations in the normal life. Walk away and disregard comments and topics you disagree with or that might be insulting. Just take that little bit of responsibility.


tarvis 7 years ago

95 % of internet content is rubbish.
this is another system that has to be regulated, If I want to access and/or upload info I should have to pay high expense for it.
Are we humans going to learned once and for all that the freedom has to be regulated or we would like to go up on our dreams that freedom balances.
Great then lets keep unregulating the banks!!!!.
So governmets can take inmediate action by taken from our pensions.