Prof. Saket speaks on internet censorship issue during DD News panel discussion

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Amid a raging debate over web censorship in India, Professor Saket Srivastava of IIIT-Delhi feels that internet service providers cannot be taken to task blindly for objectionable content posted by users on their sites.

Prof Saket’s comments came during a panel discussion conducted by DD News which also involved leading Supreme Court advocate Pavan Duggal, against the backdrop of a court’s direction to Google, Facebook and other internet companies to remove certain objectionable content from their websites.

Maintaining that the internet service providers cannot be blamed always, Prof Saket argued that everybody is aware that stealing is a crime, it doesn’t mean that police should be in the dock whenever such a crime takes place. In the same manner, social media websites (such as Google and Facebook) cannot be put in the dock if users violate terms and conditions of using their websites, he stressed. “It is the users’ fault and they should be punished."

The service providers follow certain terms and conditions while operating their sites, he asserted.

Advocate Duggal, on his part, opined that internet companies should act in a responsible manner and cited the Information Technology Act, which requires intermediaries like ISPs to remove content that is found objectionable within a period of 36 hours of being notified of the content. Under the act, intermediaries are also required to warn users against posting or uploading a variety of objectionable content in their user agreements and other rules and regulations.

Authorities have been complaining that requests by them for removal of content from some websites have gone unheeded by internet companies, which also refuse to provide information on who had posted the content.

During the DD News talk, Prof Saket noted that prenatal sex determination is a serious crime, but if some hospitals or clinics still violate the rules and conduct sonography for this purpose, the technology manufactures cannot be prosecuted.

He pointed out that in some cases, Google and Facebook have both removed objectionable pages. However, he said, sometimes the internet service providers are not able to figure out whether the complaint against the content on their sites is politically-motivated.

His comments followed Google’s and Facebook’s petitions to the Delhi High Court in the wake of a lower court’s instructions to them to remove objectionable content from their websites.