India gets tough over ‘objectionable’ content

Running out of patience, an Indian court has given Google, Facebook and other internet companies just 15 more days to remove ‘objectionable’ content – although the companies say they’ve already done all they can.

Late last year, telecommunications minister Kapil Sibal demanded that doctored images including pictures of congress president Sonia Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh in compromising positions should be removed immediately.

While India’s generally a supporter of free speech, it’s been argued that the images represent an incitement to violence.

A law passed last year requires companies to remove content within 36 hours of any complaint – something the companies have repeatedly claimed is impossible. The charges have been brought under Sections 292 – sale of obscene books and material – and Sections 293 – sale of obscene objects to young persons – of the Indian Penal Code.

According to the Hindustan Times, Facebook filed a compliance report this morning, with Google India claiming that it’s removed the most offensive content – from its India domain, though not elsewhere.

But apparently this wasn’t enough to satisfy the court.

“Why are you [Google] not coming properly with your reply?” the paper quotes the judge as saying. “Don’t tell me you have been served only on Friday. After this entire hullabaloo that has been created in the last few months you should have been prepared.”

Another 21 firms are in similar trouble with the court, including Microsoft and Yahoo. Whiler it’s currently a civil case – filed by Mufti Aizaz Arshad Kazmi – a criminal case examining the same issues is due to come to court next month.

However, the companies will next week ask a judge to quash the case.