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Pre-screening of content is Impossible: Google, Facebook

New Delhi, Tue, 17 Jan 2012 NI Wire

New Delhi: Social networking site Google and Facebook have said to Delhi high court that they are not able to screen the content posted on their websites, Google and Facebook told Delhi high court that it is impossible to check individuals from posting anything on their profile online. These social networking websites emphasized that they do respect a person’s freedom of speech and expression.

Pleading the case for Google, senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul said, “It’s easy for people to say you can use filters. If we were to block the word sex, for instance, all data on ration cards, passports etc will get blocked in one go, as the word sex figures in all this data, so what wrong we are doing if this word is being used by any individual? It is difficult to analyze as to in what sense the word is being used.”

Executives of twenty-one companies including Google and Facebook have been summoned to appear in person in a trial court on March 13 for hosting obscene and objectionable contents on their sites.

In its defense Google said that it is working as a search engine and its filtration directs the users of sites of their choice.

“The offending material belongs to the website, controlled by the owner of the website. Google has nothing to do with it,” Google’s counsel Kaul said.

“There are serious issues regarding freedom of speech. We have this freedom in our country unlike a totalitarian regime like China. We are proud we have this freedom,” Kaul said.

The problems for these companies started when Vinay Rai filed a petition objecting the obscene and objectionable content that include obscene portrayal of Hindu, Muslim and Christian deities on Orkut, Yahoo, YouTube and other social networking sites.

Here it is worth noting that a Delhi court had on Friday suggested that the executives of these 21 companies be tried for criminal conspiracy. The companies had appealed against these decisions in Delhi high court, which warned last week that India too can choose to ban these websites.

Google also pleaded that its Indian subsidiary cannot be held responsible for an act by its parent company. But Justice Suresh Kait was not pleased with this argument. “Are you not a beneficiary of Google Inc’s business? If some illegal activity is being carried out by a tenant and the landlord is a beneficiary, then how can the landlord not know what’s happening?”

The advocate for the petitioner Hariharan argued that websites such as Google and Facebook are liable for the content, posted on their platform by users, as they reap benefits from it. .

“Every click on a Google- owned website gets it revenue on the content. Google India is wrong in stating that it is just an ad-collection subsidiary of Google Inc. The memorandum of association of Google India shows it is in the business of production of software, Internet products, computer-aided design, analysis, selling Internet search, engineering platforms and solutions. Thus it is not only in the business of advertising, as it states,” Hariharan was quoted as saying.

The next hearing in this matter will be on January 19.


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