India censorship face-off heads to court

Dylan Bushell-Embling
13 Mar 2012

Executives from web companies including Google and Facebook are in court in New Delhi today facing charges of not moving to censor online content.

The criminal trial accuses the companies of hosting material that will “corrupt minds” and may “create enmity, hatred, and communal violence,” Wall Street Journalreported.

If the defendants lose the case they could face jail time, and their companies could be hit with fines.

The trial was filed by Indian journalist Vinay Rai, but was authorized by the Indian government in January.

Google and Facebook have already petitioned the Delhi High Court to squash the case, but this trial won't be heard until May.

The outcome lawsuit could have major implications for the Indian government's efforts to force web companies from complying with laws against infringing content.

New government regulations introduced last year oblige internet companies to remove material that is objectionable, harmful, defamatory or blasphemous within 36 hours of notification.

But the Indian government has reportedly been pressing Google, Facebook and other web companies to go one step further, and pre-censor content posted to their various web services.

Google and Facebook have argued that monitoring their services without relying on complaints would be infeasible due to the sheer volume of traffic. They also hold that such a move would stifle free speech.

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