New Delhi: A Delhi judge has given 22 internet companies like Facebook and Google 15 days to explain what they have done to remove content described as "objectionable" on their sites. "You don't deserve more time," said the judge handling the civil suit against the firms. The next hearing has been fixed for March 1. The same 22 firms also face criminal charges in another case where they've been accused of conspiring to host objectionable content on their websites. In that case, executives from the companies have been told to appear in court on March 13.
The civil case heard today accuses Yahoo, Orkut and others of allowing "anti-religious" and "anti-social" content that could provoke communal tension. Facebook and Google India filed their compliance reports before Additional Civil Judge Praveen Singh.
Facebook, in its affidavit of compliance, told the court that that the images and videos objected to "do not contain URL (Uniform Resource Locator) to indicate that the source of the downloaded material is facebook.com." The company's lawyers also said that Facebook "does not control or operate the servers that host the website available at www.facebook.com, which are located in the United States".
Google said that it has already removed the content that it was made aware of at the last hearing in December. "This step is in accordance with Google's long standing policy of responding to court orders," said a release by the company.
Yahoo and Microsoft filed applications for deletion of their names from the civil complaint stating that there was no allegation against them of webcasting any objectionable contents
The petitioner, Mufti Aizaz Arshad Kazmi, filed his case in December. He had shown the court offensive religious cartoons and obscene morphed photos of politicians and deities. The court asked him today to provide all the material he has to the firms, so that they can ensure all the objectionable posts are deleted.
Mr Kazmi filed his civil suit in December, days before another Delhi resident Vinay Rai filed the criminal case against the online firms.
Sachin Pilot, Minister of State for Communications and IT said that the government has no interest in censorship but that internet firms are expected to abide by the law.
"We expect responsible behaviour from both sides. There is nothing demanded outside the ambit of law. There is no question of censorship," said Mr Pilot.
The Delhi High Court recently warned that India could follow China's lead and ban websites that don't follow Indian law. The firms involved have said that though they will comply with legal requirements, it is impossible to monitor and censor all content posted on the internet.