Google agrees to court order in India to remove content

The Indian government wants Google and other Internet companies to evolve a mechanism to quickly remove objectionable content

Google has agreed before a court in Delhi to remove religious and other content considered objectionable, though some other Internet firms are likely to appeal the court's decision, plaintiff Mufti Ajiaz Arshad Qasmi said on Monday.

Qasmi, a private citizen, had filed a civil suit against Google and other Internet companies including Facebook, objecting to certain content on their websites. The content is said to mock gods worshipped in India. He is now pressing the companies to put in place technology for filtering out content that is considered objectionable.

"This step is in accordance with Google's long-standing policy of responding to court orders," a Google spokeswoman in India said.

India has been sensitive to certain political and religious content on websites, and the country's minister for communications, Kapil Sibal, said in December that Internet companies should evolve a mechanism to remove objectionable content immediately after it is put up.

Google told the court of civil judge Praveen Singh that it had already removed some of the objectionable content, and promised to remove the remaining content pointed out by Qasmi in the 15 days given to it and other Internet companies to take down the content, Qasmi said.

In a separate criminal suit filed in Delhi by a newspaper editor, Vinay Rai, against objectionable content on websites of 21 Internet companies including Google and Facebook, Google India has argued that it is not responsible for third-party content, and in any case the sites are not owned and operated by Google India but its parent company, Google Inc.

The government allowed the court to prosecute the Internet companies under various Indian laws in the criminal case, but Google has meanwhile appealed the decision before the Delhi High Court.

"They are saying a different thing before each court," Rai said on Monday. "In the civil matter they have agreed to remove the content, which they had refused to remove in the criminal court."

The criminal case, however, holds Google responsible for the third-party content, and also named its officials as liable, said a person close to the situation, who declined to be named. The civil case is entirely about removal of certain content, the person added.

Google said last month it was directing users to localized country domains on Blogger to provide it flexibility to comply with content removal rules in various countries. Twitter also decided last month to withhold certain content from users in a specific country, when required by local laws, while keeping it available to the rest of the world.

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