Facebook, Google on Trial in India

Firms accused of failing to remove blasphemous content

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 13, 2012 3:10 AM CDT

(Newser) – Facebook and Google are on trial in India for failing to yank objectionable content from their websites quickly enough. A criminal complaint alleges that sites including Facebook and Google's YouTube didn't remove content mocking religious figures, despite Indian laws against "blasphemous" and "ethnically objectionable" material online. The trial begins today, and execs from the Internet firms could face jail time if convicted.

Civil liberties lawyers call the case—which comes as Facebook eyes India as a major growth market—an assault on free speech, the Wall Street Journal notes. Lawyers for the Internet firms argue that it would be unfeasible for them to police all of their content for objectionable material. "Internet companies have to follow the local laws of the land," says the founder of Indian e-commerce site ShopClues.com. "But India can't afford to send a message that unreasonable censorship of the Internet has started."

An Indian man views a Google page at an Internet cafe in Hyderabad.   (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
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