The Indian government has enacted tough restrictions on Internet content and publishers, ignoring objections detailed by Google in a confidential memo earlier this year.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the new rules in India place what appears to be a heavy burden on websites to ban users from publishing certain types of content and to remove such content within 36 hours after government notification. The WSJ says Google disagreed with the specific wording that describes objectionable material:
Google’s memo shows that the company sought changes aimed at limiting its potential liability for hosting objectionable content posted by third parties. For example, the company wanted to eliminate a section of the draft rules that outlawed specific categories of content and replace it with a more general ban on material that “violates any law for the time being in force.” The final rules banned any material that is “grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous” as well as anything “ethnically objectionable” or “disparaging” or that “impersonate(s) another person.”
Google has been fighting battles for years over the issue of who’s responsible for content posted online — often involving videos posted to YouTube. The Italian government recently issued rules that allow it to regulate Google and YouTube as a “broadcaster”. In the US, Google battled with Viacom for several years over YouTube copyright responsibilities, and Google won that lawsuit last summer.
In India, Google argued that the new rules would expose it to liability for user-published content. An Indian government spokesperson tells the WSJ that it will announce a “clarification” to its rules soon to address concerns raised by free-speech advocates.