Under Threat Of Being Blocked Google, Facebook Comply With India’s New Internet Censorship Rules

After China and the US, India is the third largest internet market in the world. But India has philosophically aligned itself more with China in pursuing a policy of censorship toward publication of content deemed “offensive” or “objectionable” by individuals, groups or the government.

A recently enacted law seeks to remove all such content from the internet in India. Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft were sued under the law and had been arguing in Indian court that it was all but impossible for them to comply as a practical matter. The law makes online publishers potentially liable for the acts of individual users and third parties (think “offensive” blog hosted on Blogger or “objectionable” video uploaded to YouTube).

According to a BBC report Indian Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said the following in December about the desired impact of the new law:

My aim is that insulting material never gets uploaded. We will evolve guidelines and mechanisms to deal with the issue. [The companies] will have to give us the data, where these images are being uploaded and who is doing it.

Google, Facebook and others had argued that they had no control over individuals and should not be held liable for their conduct accordingly. They said they cannot “pre-filter” material generated by millions of users. This is what would be called a “prior restraint” against free speech in the US.

Indian courts have been unsympathetic and demanded that the companies comply or be blocked entirely “like in China.” The BBC says that the companies have now complied and removed offending material at issue in a particular civil lawsuit.

However the overly vague nature of the statute on which these claims are based almost guarantees that Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and other online publishers in India will face a steady stream of litigation from individuals or groups “offended” by this or that image, article or video.

Stock image used under license from Shutterstock

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Related Topics: Channel: Social | Facebook | Google: Legal | Google: Outside US | Legal: Censorship | Microsoft: Outside US | Yahoo: Legal | Yahoo: Outside US


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.

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  • http://www.econtentaxis.com C.A.

    Politicians are not bothered about the religious sentiments of people rather they are trying to protect the tarnishing image of politicians that is the central issue.

  • http://www.serpholic.co.uk/ S.H.

    Its a really terrible and harrassing news for social media optimizer because they have a lot of activities, Indian internet new censorship law according to kapil Sibal “My aim is that insulting material never gets uploaded. We will evolve guidelines and mechanisms to deal with the issue. [The companies] will have to give us the data, where these images are being uploaded and who is doing it.” its a good to protect against volition.
    and it will definitely jeopardize the freedom of speech and liberty among common people. Such kind of laws should not be enacted by the government.

  • http://www.canuckseo.com Jim Rudnick

    Absolutely a bad thing! Maybe the publishers SHOULD just let India kill the service in their country….wouldn’t that mean that the populace would “rise up” like we’ve seen before and get their politicians to open back up the gates…

    As a blogger, I too realize the issue of censorship of comments etc…..and I think that this prior restraint is totallly wrong….



  • pankajgupta

    Much ado about nothing!
    Anybody who knows anything about India knows its too large to be policed selectively. The Indian courts or government asking for selected content to be removed is no different from United States government asking content to be removed. Why is it when the French government asks google to remove Nazi propaganda its not considered and infringement on free speech but when Indian government makes a similar request its considered infringement of free speech ?

    The US government and courts have made more requests for content to be removed from Google/Facebook than Indian government.

    Seriously maybe you should think before posting. A blanket ban (like China) is very different from legitimate requests from a democratically elected representatives of people with independent judicial oversight.

    The quote from the “minister” in Indian govt is irrelevant and out of context. Only judicial authorities can approve/dis-approve sub-poenas for removing “content”

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