Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Censorship on the Menu at New Delhi Trial of Facebook and Google

The Rashtrapati Bhawan which is the residence ...Image via WikipediaFreedom of expression lovers have turned their attention to New Delhi's Patiala House where social media leviathans Facebook and Google went on trial Tuesday for failing to remove objectionable content from their sites.

As reported by The Wall St. Journal and Bloomberg News, an adverse ruling in the high stakes proceedings could impose heavy fines on Facebook and Google and subject executives of the social media companies to jail terms. Microsoft Corp. is also a defendant, but the focus thus far is on Google and Facebook as the repositories of the purportedly offensive content.

Indian journalist Vinay Rai initiated the criminal complaint, alleging the defendants display content that "seeks to create enmity, hatred and communal violence," according to the Journal article. Facebook and Google believe India's information technology law shields them from liability, but Delhi's High Court is not expected to address the defendants' efforts to dismiss the case against them before May. Unlike China, India has not blocked Web sites, but censorship suits are not a rarity, but are a hindrance to social media companies' business operations.

According to reports, fewer than 10 percent of India's 1.2 billion citizens are online. Facebook monthly users in India total roughly 46 million, while Google estimates reaching 300 million Web users in India by 2014. Bloomberg reports that Google has taken down most of the material about which Rai complained.

Facebook and Google previously pulled  purportedly religiously offensive content from their sites that upset Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasm (see "TUOL" post 2/7/12).
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