Back in December we told you about India’s intent to ban offensive online material, and how internet companies like Google and Facebook were being asked to control the content distrubuted on their platforms. And just yesterday, according to The Hindustan Times, Justice Suresh Kait of the Delhi High Court ominously warned:
Like China we will block all such websites.
The initial complaint against the internet companies was filed by journalist Vinay Rai, and subsequently representatives of 21 internet services, including Facebook, Google, and Yahoo were summoned to court.
Here on PO we’ve written much about censorship on the Internet in China, and frankly I find it kind of surprising that we’re seeing such talk coming out of India. But considering that even US law-makers are having more trouble than usual keeping up with internet technology, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that other countries are struggling too. In India of course, the issue is more about policing offensive content rather than pirated content as with SOPA in the US.
An advocate who appeared for Google India, N.K. Kaul noted that both the complainant and the trail judge had not done their homework in this case, further explaining:
A third party has uploaded content on the website. I am only a passive (service) provider, I should not be held liable in the case, when the people who are actually doing it are not made a party.
This pretty much sums up my thoughts on the flawed approach of many governments to regulating the internet. We recently saw Tencent’s Pony Ma make a similar, albeit more colorful, analogy when talking about real-name registration in China:
When people arrange prostitution over the phone, is that the telecom operator’s responsibility?
The Internet is like any public space in that it’s going to be damn near impossible to control what people say there without changing its fundamental nature. Cory Doctorow recently gave a talk entitled “The Coming War on General Computation,” in which he eloquently addresses the issue of law makers struggling with the internet. Check it out in the video below, the most relevant portion coming just after the ten minute mark. But the entire talk is great, and I recommend to check it out in full if you have time.