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Delhi court issues fresh summons to Facebook, Google and others for allegedly promoting enmity and religious hatred

In Technology by Jayadevan P K

A court in Delhi has issued fresh summons to more than 10 websites including Facebook and Google to appear in court on March 13 and face criminal charges leveled against them.

The court was hearing a petition filed by a Delhi based journalist Vinay Rai who accused websites such as Facebook and Google of profiting by hosting content that promotes hate, religious animosity and objectionable material.

According to a new report, the court issued summons after Facebook India’s lawyer said that of the 21 websites accused by Rai, more than 10 were based outside India and the court would have to initiate due process to try them in India.

Further hearing of the matter has been scheduled for March 13 when the companies have been asked to appear.

In December 2011, the court had first ordered more than 20 websites including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to appear for trial following the complaint by Rai, who is the editor of Urdu Weekly named Akbari.

Sudesh Kumar, the metropolitan magistrate in Delhi who heard the petition and said that “prima facie, the accused in connivance with each other and other unknown persons are selling, publicly exhibiting and have put into circulation obscene, lascivious content which also appeals to the prurient interests and tends to deprave and corrupt the persons who are likely to read, see or hear the same.”

The petition against these websites was filed in 2011 by Vinay Rai at a time when the Indian government had asked Google, Facebook and others to prescreen user content to remove inflammatory content before it goes online.

Following a report by The New York Times which said that Minister Kapil Sibal was meeting top officials of Google, Microsoft and other Internet companies to discuss pre-screening, there was widespread protest against the governments move to censor the web.

Furious protests by Internet users made the minister backtrack his statements. He later said that the government did not want censorship but had asked companies to put in place mechanisms that ensure that such content is removed as soon as the sites are informed of it.

A furious debate is underway in India after recent incidents of misuse of a newly introduced Section 66 (A) of the IT act, including arbitrary police action on youngsters for posting comments on social networking sites, came to light.

Recently, the government set up an inter-ministerial panel to handle issues related to Internet governance.

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