India Threatens to "Pull a China" and Block Social Networking Sites

By: Qichen Zhang on 17 January 2012

China is well known as a leader in online censorship, but no other government has explicitly referenced the country as an example to follow—until now. Last Thursday, Delhi's High Court ordered Facebook and Google India to remove all "objectionable and offensive" material from their websites if they wanted to continue operating in India. Threatening to shut down the sites completely, Justice Suresh Kait said explicitly, as reported by the Hindustan Times, "Like China, we will block all such websites." Social networks accused of publishing "lascivious material" immediately countered the court proceedings. "No human interference is possible, and moreover, it can't be feasible to check such incidents," they argued. "Billions of people across the globe post their articles on the website." Kait then responded:

You must have a stringent check. You must have a mechanism to develop a check and remove such offending articles while simultaneously taking action against the person who is the author of such articles.

Apparently, a private individualan Islamic scholar and journalist, says the National—brought the case to the High Court seeking to remove offensive images of Muslims, Hindus, and Christians on certain websites.

Then, a day later, it was revealed that the Indian government had approved a sanction against 21 social networking websites that they sought to censor. ZDNet reports that the prosecution of such companies, 10 of which were foreign-based and included Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, was actually approved all the way back in December, but the news was only released last week.

Kait's warning and the official prosecution on the 21 websites are only two more moves toward an increasingly strict web-monitoring protocol on behalf of the Indian government. In the past two years, the government of India sent 307 requests to Google asking it to remove 765 items. The state of government online censorship in India is far from being settled, however; the next hearing in this case is scheduled for March 13.