Google India and Facebook have removed web pages considered offensive to India's political and religious leadership to satisfy a court order in a censorship case. Indian prosecutors are suing a host of Internet companies on behalf of a Muslim religious leader who has accused them of hosting content that insults Islam.
Google India did not reveal which sites were removed, but the company has stated it will take down anything which violates Indian law. Reuters reports Facebook also removed content from some "Indian domain websites" and that the company would make a statement later.
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According to Indian media and the Associated Press, a New Delhi court Monday issued Google, Facebook, YouTube, Blogspot and other Internet companies a two-week ultimatum for delivering plans to actively supervise their networks.
The Indian government has been aggressively lobbying 22 online companies to scrub content deemed "anti-religious" or "anti-social." Indian officials consider American Internet standards unacceptable for the country's 100-plus million online citizens.
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The Indian government's efforts to censor the web have alarmed proponents of online free speech around the world. But Indian government officials dismissed those fears, citing a goal of national unity in a country with over 2,000 ethnic groups and subscribers to every major religion.
"There is no question of any censorship," said Indian communications minister Sachin Pilot. "They all have to operate within the laws of the country."
Pilot claimed to have enough evidence to accuse 21 sites for "promoting enmity between classes and causing prejudice to national integration," and he believes that anyone "hurt" by online content should have a legal recourse to action.
The move is the latest chapter of India's struggle to maintain control over its growing online community, which is the third largest of any country. (But with 1.17 billion people, Internet penetration per capita remains low.)
Last April, the Indian government passed regulations that required websites to remove any material considered “grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous,” “ethnically objectionable,” “disparaging” or that impersonates someone else. And in December of last year, India's government called for Internet companies to screen content before users posted it, a task considered impossible by many.
According to Google's Transparency Report, the Indian government asked the company to remove content 68 times between January and June of last year, and 51% of those requests were at least partially complied with.
Earlier, Facebook India gave a compliance report to the court Monday while also saying that no public complaints have been lodged against the company. India, with more than 43 million Facebook users (second highest in the world) is Facebook's third-fastest growing market.
Do you think the Indian government is justified in trying to remove objectionable content from the Internet? Sound off in the comments below.
This story originally published on Mashable here.