Monday, 23 January 2012

Google, Facebook petition hearing today, at Delhi HC

Today, even as scores of users across the country continue to browse, make social connections and interact through Facebook and Google's services, the companies brace themselves to present a convincing stand in their petition hearing at the Delhi HC, reports Zee News. Facebook and Google had challenged the summons issued by a trial court to prosecute them, pertaining to the alleged 'objectionable' nature of the content posted on their sites by stating that it was nearly impossible to 'pre-screen content' before it went up on their website. The websites maintained that prescreening content before it went up on the website would eat into the user's freedom of speech and expression. In one such court hearing, Google's counsel, Neeraj Kishan Kaul was quoted by this report as saying, "The issue relates to a constitutional issue of freedom of speech and expression and suppressing it was not possible as the right to freedom of speech in democratic India separates us from a totalitarian regime like China."
Under the scanner
Under the scanner

In one of our previous reports, we had stated that the Delhi HC had scheduled the next hearing for February 2, 2012. However, the companies then filed petitions challenging the summons issued by a trial court. Both Google and Facebook have been presenting their views on the web censorship in a court case that has been grabbing eyeballs from almost all quarters. While Google stands clear on its view that prescreening content was a deterrent to the freedom of speech and expression, Facebook maintains that the user, and not the website was responsible for the kind of content posted.

In one of the earlier petition hearings, Siddharth Luthra, a Facebook lawyer was quoted as saying that it was impossible to ""single out" any individual on the basis of religion or views and said the users should be held responsible for content they post," while Neeraj Kishan Kaul, Google's counsel had stated, "The search engine only takes you till the website. What happens after that is beyond a search engine's control. If you use blocks, which is very easy for people to say, you will inadvertently block other things as well. For example: the word 'sex'. Even a government document like a voter ID list or a passport has the word 'sex'."

On Saturday, Yahoo! India Private Ltd., another widely used e-mail and messenger service and among the 21 social networking websites that were accused of carrying objectionable content, challenged the magistrate's summons. The popular service approached the Delhi HC, claiming that unlike the others accused, their service wasn't a social networking platform. Senior advocate, Arvind Nigam, who appeared on behalf of Yahoo! stated that, "I am not a social networking site like other accused in the case. I only provide email and chat services. Moreover, no objectionable material has been attributed to me and hence my case is different from others." To this, reportedly, Justice Suresh Kait, who's overseeing the proceedings, stated, "Then why you have been made an accused?"

The court case, involving as many as 21 social networking sites operational in the country, including Google, Facebook, YouTube, among others is one of the most talked about in the recent times.

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