By Arup Roychoudhury and Harichandan Arakali
Feb 6 Internet giants Google Inc
and Facebook removed content from some Indian domain websites on
Monday following a court directive warning them of a crackdown
"like China" if they did not take steps to protect religious
The two are among 21 companies asked to develop a mechanism
to block objectionable material after a private petitioner took
them to court over images deemed offensive to Hindus, Muslims
The case has stoked fears about censorship in the world's
"(Our) review team has looked at the content and disabled
this content from the local domains of search, Youtube and
Blogger," Google spokeswoman Paroma Roy Chowdhury said.
At the heart of the dispute is a law that India passed last
year making companies responsible for user content posted on
their web sites, and giving them 36 hours to take down content
if there's a complaint.
Last month, the companies said it was not possible for them
to block content. Google's Roy Chowdhury declined to comment on
what had since been removed, and a Facebook representative said
only that the company would release a statement later.
A lower court in New Delhi told the companies on Monday to
put in writing the steps they had taken to block offensive
content, and submit reports to the court within 15 days.
Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Microsoft
have appealed in the Delhi High Court against a criminal case
successfully brought by a Hindu petitioner. A civil case against
them has been brought to a lower court by a Muslim petitioner.
"If the companies have actually removed some content, they
should put in place a mechanism to do it regularly, instead of
waiting for a court case every time," Vinay Rai, the Hindu
petitioner, told Reuters.
"Microsoft has filed an application for rejection of the
suit on the grounds that it disclosed no cause of action against
Microsoft," a spokesperson for the company said. "The matter is
sub judice and no further comments can be given."
Fewer than one in 10 of India's 1.2 billion population has
access to the Internet, but that still makes it the
third-biggest Internet market after China and the United States.
The number of Internet users in India is expected to almost
triple to 300 million over the next three years.
Despite the new rules to block offensive content, India's
Internet access is still largely uncensored, in contrast to the
tight controls in neighbouring China.
While civil rights groups have opposed the new laws,
politicians say posting offensive images in a socially
conservative country, which has a history of violence between
religious groups, presents a danger to the public.