Top Business News: Google gives in to pressure from India

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Monday, February 6th, 2012

Google India blocks content, raising censorship fears

The world's largest democracy convinced Google to block content considered offensive to local political and religious leaders Monday.

In a move that sparked censorship fears, especially following Twitter's controversial decision to block tweets according to local laws, Google India removed content considered insulting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and religious groups.

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Google India blocks content, raising censorship fears

The world's largest democracy convinced Google to block content considered offensive to local political and religious leaders Monday.

In a move that sparked censorship fears, especially following Twitter's controversial decision to block tweets according to local laws, Google India removed content considered insulting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and religious groups.

India passed a law last year that made companies responsible for user content posted on their websites and allowed them 36 hours to remove content after a complaint is issued, Reuters reported. Indian citizens have since filed two noticeable lawsuits against 22 Internet companies in response to content they consider objectionable, including illustrations of pigs running through Mecca, Islam's holiest city.

One suit brought by a journalist has already proven successful, as a judge ruled Google, Facebook, Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft have to stand trial for distribution of obscene content to minors. The companies are appealing that case, but the judge has already said he is willing to completely block companies' websites if they did not begin working to comply with Indian law.

Another suit, brought by Islamic scholar Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasm, had a hearing Monday morning, in which Google and Facebook filed reports on their compliance with the law, and Google reported that it is now blocking content targeted in the suits.

"(Our) review team has looked at the content and disabled this content from the local domains of (Google) search, YouTube and Blogger," Google spokeswoman Paroma Roy Chowdhury said. Google India did not disclose the sites that were removed, but had said it would be willing to go after anything that violated local law or its own standards.

Facebook India, while also filing a compliance report with the court, claimed it should not be part of the lawsuit: The content deemed questionable is on Facebook servers in the United States, which is a separate company that Facebook India does not control, a Times of India report said. Microsoft and Yahoo followed a similar legal tactic, filing paperwork seeking to be removed from the newest lawsuit on the grounds that the complainants have not proved they are at fault in the case.

Going forward, the journalist who brought the first case against the Web giants, Vinai Rai, hopes they will be quicker to respond to complaints and take down objectionable material.

"If the companies have actually removed some content, they should put in place a mechanism to do it regularly, instead of waiting for a court case every time," Rai told Reuters.

Google stock did not feel any effects from the move, as it increased 2.1 percent to $609.09 on the day.


 

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