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Updated: February 11, 2012 13:28 IST

No proper case against us, say Facebook, others

Jiby Kattakayam
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A combo image of logos of social networking site Facebook and online search engine Google. File photos
A combo image of logos of social networking site Facebook and online search engine Google. File photos

Facebook India, Yahoo India and Microsoft India, accused of hosting objectionable content threatening communal harmony, told a civil court here on Monday that a proper case had not been made out against them.

The court had directed 21 social networking websites to remove the content and submit compliance reports. The websites had also objected to their being made parties to the suit.

However, Google India told the court that it had begun removing some content. Among the websites, Facebook India, Google India and Yahoo India filed affidavits.

Administrative Civil Judge Praveen Singh directed that statements be filed within 15 days, by February 21, while listing the matter to March 1. The court rejected the respondents' plea to give them more time to file replies.

Websites object to their being made parties to suit

Facebook India, Yahoo India and Microsoft India on Monday objected to their being made parties to the suit which accused them of hosting objectionable content threatening communal harmony. A civil court had directed 21 social networking websites to remove the content and submit compliance reports.

“Upon perusal of the contents of the compact disc, Facebook India Online Services finds that the images and videos do not contain the URL to indicate that the source of the downloaded material is Moreover, Facebook India Online Services does not control or operate the servers that host the website available at which are located in the United States,” Facebook said in its affidavit.

Facebook also filed an application seeking its removal from the list of arraigned respondents. “The contents of the suit are wrong and that it [Facebook] is neither a necessary nor a proper party to it,” Facebook said.

On Google India pointing out to the court that it had removed certain web pages even without being supplied the complete list of objectionable content, the court directed Santosh Pandey, counsel for complainant Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi, to provide hard copies of all the web pages listed in the complaint to respondents to help them mount a proper defence.

In December, Administrative Civil Judge Mukesh Kumar directed 22 social networking websites to file compliance reports on February 6 and appear for hearing on February 21.

Yahoo India objected to being lumped with social networking websites and said the plaintiff had not shown in his complaint that the objectionable content was present on its website. “Yahoo India is primarily a content portal offering e-mail and messenger communication services but not offering features generally associated with social networking websites. So, to that extent the website of Yahoo India cannot be regarded as a social networking website … the plaintiff has nowhere averred that any such alleged offensive material was present or hosted by it or has annexed any documents to show that any offensive material was present on its website.”

Microsoft India also said the plaintiff had not brought any allegations against it and that “no cause for action” was made against it.

Another court here had on January 13 issued summons to 21 websites for hosting objectionable content, after receiving sanction from the Department of Information Technology of the Union government.

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To anyone who still thinks Facebook supports communal tension etc - the Shiv Sena is responsible for violent sectarian acts. Why hasn't the Center initiated legal proceedings against them? Or Courts taken cognizance?
Digvijay Singh claimed that Hemant Karkare was killed by Hindu extremists, a claim conspicuous by absence of any proof. Why weren't defamation proceedings initiated against him? These are cases where proper steps can be taken. The govt's hyped "blocking" of "objectionable" content, which is a propaganda gimmick, can easily be circumvented. It won't achieve anything, except revulsion and titters at the "liberal secular" Congress from certain sections and votes from certain other sections.But there is a worrying trend here. There are hardly any Muslims joining the debate. This is an ideal opportunity for them to engage in exchange of thoughts and will give the moderates a golden chance to assert themselves.

from:  Aritra Gupta
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 16:35 IST

Censorship is a slippery slope. If 'offensive' content is to be removed,
then internet will be soon empty. These small steps of censoring will gradually reach SOPA level in India.It is sad.

from:  sandeep
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 14:21 IST

Communal harmony doesnt mean material on UPA alone. Every citizen has right to express his views and social networking mean its my views sharing online and when world is moving in a fast pace and government doing this tym of stuff just to protect its image is not good.

from:  ashok
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 13:43 IST

The court's verdict is an absolute travesty that can be interpreted as permissible by Article 19 of the Constitution solely due to the flawed, weaselly wording used by the drafters. A society that deems certain content objectionable enough to be censored cannot be comprised of intellectually mature citizens. Banning viewpoints is nothing more than legalized thuggery, and the purported good intentions from which this case originates are nothing new either. It was such attitudes that stifled the Soviet Union and catalyzed to Iran's cultural demise.

from:  Mahesh
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 11:42 IST

I wonder Court has time for entertaining such a trivial case where thousands of serious matters are kept pending. This is insanely insane.

from:  Shimray
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 11:20 IST

This is just ridiculous. Can't the courts fine the petitioner for filing such frivolous cases?

from:  kumar
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 09:43 IST

The complainant seems to have taken a "blunderbuss" approach, targeting all internet companies on a blanket basis, desperately wanting removal of the material it dislikes.A solution for him would be to boycott Facebook, Google or the whole internet. Unfortunately every computer these days comes with an internet browser. Smart phones come with a browser too. I do sympathize with the complainant to some extent but can we turn the clock back ? The increasing number of cases by private parties against Google/Facebook/Yahoo/Microsoft in Delhi High Court is also a matter of concern, as they are mostly frivolous and are best discouraged as such !

from:  KK
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 08:17 IST

Our courts need to stop wasting everyone's time . It has cases pending for more than 20 years . Please get back to work. No one is reading every single comment written by everyone on facebook,google.

from:  Lavanya
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 06:39 IST

It is a stupid order. The "offensive content" the govt has decried is of 2 kinds - a. Snide comments, witty and clever criticisms of many things, among which Sonia Gandhi & Co. prominently figure. You have got to be joking if you claim a caricature of Ms Gandhi as "disgusting". b.The other kind of disgusting content (and I admit they are truly disgusting) are completely inane, eg an Indian being married with a dog, etc. These are completely inane. It isn't the job of anyone to delete them from the web. It is the job of every educated human being to ignore them without a second glance. At some level, it is an indictment of the govt's flawed and failed education policies that Indians are even bothered by such inane pictures. There are ways to circumvent "blocks". The solution lies in making people aware of the fact that whoever can dream up and enter such inane content onto the public domain deserves social excommunication, nothing less. Blocking will not achieve anything, period.

from:  Aritra Gupta
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 05:46 IST

That the Indian arm of Facebook does not control and therefore not responsible for the obscene matters appearing on the website is a lame excuse. It is like letting a terrier loose and saying that its owner as not responsible if it attacks the passers by. How can a civilised society allow materials, which affect communal harmony religious sentiments and those cross the Laxmanrekha of what is accepted as contemporary social norms, to allow to appear in print or electronic media. Sites like Facebook are only interested in increasing their advertisement revenue by publishing any rubbish at minimal cost, as any form of editing would be expensive and affect their market value of $100 billion. One needs to weigh the usefulness of such websites to our society. Why can't they emulate Wikipedia which is a goldmine of knowledge and information without crossing the limits of social norms?

from:  C S JACOB
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 05:40 IST

As usual, India will get the repeat dubious distinction of being a TIME WASTER country, that simply wallow in mindless litigation process. Do the home work properly and initiate action. Don't simply issue stay orders at the flip of a coin or hat. It is the duty of the court to hold the petitioner responsible if he or she indulge in frivolous petitions to the court. Proper fines are needed to prevent such time wastage of the court as well as of the litigants involved.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 05:36 IST
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