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India threatens to block Google, Facebook and chums

Court orders filtering of offensive stuff - 'like in China'

Google, Facebook and other internet companies have been warned by India's High Court that their websites could be blocked if they fail to remove "offensive, objectionable" content from their sites.

The Delhi High Court told representatives from Facebook and Google yesterday that the firms "must have a stringent check" in place to help prevent supposedly offensive material from being published on their networks.

"Otherwise, like in China, we may pass orders banning all such websites," said the court.

Summons were issued to Facebook, Google and 10 other foreign-based companies, according to a report from Press Trust of India.

Web biz bosses were told to appear before the Delhi court on 13 March to face criminal charges for allegedly hosting objectionable material on their sites. India's ministry of external affairs was asked to serve the summons on the companies.

Microsoft, Yahoo! and YouTube, which is owned by Google, were also cited in the hearing, which followed a private complaint filed in a lower court by Vinay Rai - a journalist who alleged that Google et al were publishing ghastly material.

"The accused are allowed exemption for today only but are directed to appear in person on the next date of hearing without fail," the court magistrate reportedly said.

Last month, Indian officials asked internet firms to get rid of content they considered to be offensive, following discussion with execs from Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Microsoft about moderating stuff online.

At the time, India's minister of communications and information technology, Kapil Sibal, denied that the demand amounted to censorship and instead claimed that the world's largest democracy with a population of 1.2 billion needed to protect the "sensibilities of our people". Sibal provided various examples of "unacceptable" content: faked naked pictures of Indian political leaders and religiously sensitive images.

The Register requested comment from Google and Facebook, but neither company had responded with a statement at time of writing. ®

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