Free Speech Battle In India: Google, Facebook Summoned By Court Over “Inflammatory Images”

According to a report from Chinese news agency Xinhua, a judge in India has ordered a broad range of online companies, including Google, Facebook and Yahoo, to “delete ‘inflammatory’ images of religious figures” from their sites. Though not identified in news reports the images were deemed offensive or blasphemous under a sweeping law enacted earlier this year aimed at blocking or removing “offensive” or “objectionable” content from the internet in India.

In case the problem with implementation of a law against “objectionable” content isn’t self-evident its provisions are vague and scope extremely broad. The law includes a laundry list of concepts and content restrictions susceptible to highly subjective interpretation:

[The law implicates] anything that is “harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, pornographic, libellous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, disparaging, racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable, relating to money laundering or gambling.” 

The law, which Google sought to modify before its enactment, is part of an effort to regulate morality and content on the internet in India, a country with an otherwise healthy free-speech tradition. But this law gives enormous power to both the government and to individuals to block or remove content that is subjectively disfavored for one reason or another.

Accordingly, the ability to criticize public figures and to engage in critical public discussion or debate over history and political or social issues is directly threatened by the law. Google and other internet companies originally opposed the law for logistical and liability reasons.

With more than 1 billion people, India is one of the largest potential markets in the world for Google, Facebook and other technology companies. But together with China (the largest market), US and European companies face challenging government restrictions and content censorship.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: Outside US | Legal: Censorship | Legal: Copyright | Legal: Regulation

Sponsored


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



SearchCap:

Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  

Share

Other ways to share:
 

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.

Comments are closed.

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest

 
 

Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States

Europe

Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech


Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!

 


 

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide