Google pulls content from Indian sites as censorship fears grow
Worries about internet censorship intensified yesterday as it was revealed that India - the world's largest democracy - had convinced Google India to block content considered offensive to local political and religious leaders. Last week Twitter announced a controversial decision to block tweets according to local laws. In the Indian clampdown, Google India removed content considered insulting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and religious groups. India passed a law last year making companies responsible for user content posted on their websites. They were allowed 36 hours to remove the offending item after the issuing of a complaint. Indian citizens have now filed two lawsuits against 22 Internet companies over content they consider objectionable, including illustrations of pigs running through Mecca, Islam's holiest city. In one suit, brought by a journalist Vinai Rai, a judge ruled that Google, Facebook,Yahoo and Microsoft had to stand trial for allegedly distributing obscene content to minors. The companies are appealing that case, but the judge has already said he will completely block companies' websites if they do not begin working to comply with Indian law. Another suit, brought by Islamic scholar Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasm, had a hearing yesterday . Google and Facebook filed reports on their compliance with the law, and Google reported that it was now blocking content targeted in the suits. Google spokeswoman Paroma Roy Chowdhury said their review team had looked at the content and disabled it from the local domains of Google search, YouTube and Blogger. The sites removed were not revealed. Facebook India filed a compliance report with the court but said it should not be part of the lawsuit. The content is on Facebook servers in the United States, which is a separate company that Facebook India does not control. Microsoft and Yahoo have sought to be removed from the lawsuit on the grounds that the complainants have not proved they are at fault.