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14 April 2024

India threatens to block Google, Facebook


An Indian court has threatened to block sites such as Facebook and Google unless they take steps to eliminate "offensive and objectionable" content.

"You must have a stringent check. Otherwise, like in China, we may pass orders banning all such websites," the Delhi High Court said during a hearing Thursday with legal representatives for Facebook and Google India.

Both companies should "develop a mechanism to keep a check and remove offensive and objectionable material from their web pages", Justice Suresh Kait was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

Communications Minister Kapil Sibal last month pledged a crackdown on "unacceptable" online content, saying Internet service providers had ignored India's demands to screen images and data before they are uploaded.

He provided examples of faked naked pictures of Indian political leaders and religiously sensitive images.

Sibal's comments provoked anger and derision among Indian Internet users, with experts arguing that such demands could not be enforced and smacked of state censorship.

"No human interference is possible and, moreover, it can't be feasible to check such incidents," Mukul Rohatgi, a lawyer for Google India, told the High Court hearing.

India, the world's largest democracy, has more than 110 million Internet users out of a population of 1.2 billion, with predictions that 600 million people will be online in the next five years.

Facebook and Google had moved the High Court to stay a summons issued last month by a lower court that is hearing a private criminal complaint against them.

Facebook is officially blocked in China, while Google pulled its search engine out of the country two years ago after a confrontation with Chinese authorities over censorship.