India drags Facebook and Google to court

Cases registered against 21 social networking sites for insulting its political leaders and religious sentiments

India has dragged Facebook and Google to court over ‘offensive material’ posted on its websites. A senior Indian minister has also accused such networks of prioritising US standards over Indian sensibilities.

According to the government cases have been registered against 21 social networking sites for insulting its political leaders and religious sentiments.

What is really affecting Indian officials are “vulgar” images and texts freely available on social networking sites depicting India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and other major religious figures.

While cases have been filed against companies, no officials have been named. According to reports convictions could mean fines and up to five years' imprisonment. The court is scheduled to take up the case on March 13 and a local judge has asked India's External Affairs Ministry to serve summons to officials of foreign-based companies for court appearances on that day.

The government had earlier said it had repeatedly requested company officials to remove offensive materials from the public space.

The Indian government on Friday said there were enough reasons to proceed against social networking sites for offenses of "promoting enmity between classes and causing prejudice to national integration."

India’s Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal speaking to media earlier said when asked to come up with a voluntary framework to keep the internet free of such degrading material officials had said they could do very little.

Showing web illustrations that portrayed India’s Prime Minister in a compromising position with Sonia Gandhi along with other material that showed pigs running through Islam's holy city of Mecca, Sibal said many social network sites had told him that they were applying US standards to their sites.

Earlier in 2007 UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority had blocked the social networking site Orkut.com for its offensive content.

The Facebook like social networking site was blocked following complaints that it enabled its users to find sexual partners.

The TRA has made it clear that any such website will continue to be blocked.

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