India goes China way with maximum requests for online content deletion

Google reports a 49 percent increase in number of requests received for removal of content in the second half, as against the first half of 2011


Pratap Vikram Singh | June 20, 2012

Very soon India may surpass China, not in economy and science and technology but internet censorship. Even as past few months witnessed topmost political executives jumping on social media bandwagon to connect with citizens and create 'open government', a  recent report from Google shows the government’s rigidity on Internet censorship has increased in the last six months of 2011.

According to ‘global transparency report’, a biannual study conducted by Google, since 2010, to make public the requests received from various governments for content deletion, the internet giant received 101 requests for removing content  from the government, demanding deletion of 255 items from its websites in the second half of 2011.

The numbers point at a 49 percent increase in terms of content removal requests in the second half, as against the first half of 2011.

The report said that while Indian authorities (excluding courts) pioneered the global list in pushing content removal requests - 96 requests between July and December 2011- to Google, the governments of Brazil, US and a few leading European economies were ahead of India in terms of number of items requested for deletion.

The internet giant, according to the report, was asked to remove 130 items, including 77 videos on YouTube, because they were deemed defamatory, 25 items including 24 videos, which were considered hate speech.

The leading search engine received requests for removing 22 items with impersonation risk and seven items which deemed religiously 'offensive'.

While replying to these requests, the report said, the company complied with 80 percent requests, which came from the Indian courts. However, it complied in only 26 percent cases out of the total requests made by police or other government agencies.

Google's revelation clearly indicates the willingness of the Indian authorities to censor Internet. In December 2011, Kapil Sibal, the union minister for communications and information technology, asked the social media sites- including Google, Facebook and  Yahoo- to prescreen the user content, a move which was vociferously opposed not just by the national press but also the international press and by the social media users across the globe.

Eight months before issuing this dictate, his ministry took additional legislative steps to restrict internet freedom and came up with IT rules 2011 as a supplement to the IT act 2000.

The new set of rules mandated the removal of any content that is deemed "objectionable" by the internet companies within 36 hours of being notified by the government authorities.  'Defamatory', 'hateful', 'harmful to minors' and 'infringes copyright' are the terms defined as objectionable. The government has strengthened its grip on internet since then.

Globally, the report said, Google received more than 1,000 requests in the second half of last year to take down items such as videos and search listings, and it complied with them more than half the time.

The search engine received 461 court orders demanding the removal of 6,989 items in the second half of 2011. The company agreed in 68 percent of the total cases. It also received 546 informal requests, requesting the removal of 4,925 items. It consented in 43 percent of cases, the report noted.



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