Facebook and Google are reportedly working on requests from India to remove from their websites “inflammatory and hateful content” that the government blames for sparking a mass exodus of people from several cities.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook made a statement saying that it would remove all content which breaches their terms, as defined in its agreement with its users.
Search-engine giant Google also said that they will continue to work closely with relevant authorities, and remove all ‘hateful’ content from their site. However, Twitter and Microsoft have not offered any immediate comments.
Stung by criticism over its handling of the exodus of people from north-eastern states, the government had threatened legal action against micro-blogging site Twitter and also asked websites to track down offensive material and pull off ‘inflammable’ content.
Tens of thousands of panic-stricken students and workers from northeast left for home last week, spurred by rumors they would be attacked in retaliation for communal violence in Assam.
India has been pushing Internet firms, especially social-networking websites, to censor content. However, they have refused to do so, citing local information technology laws that protect them from liability for content posted by users.
Earlier, social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube had informed the government that inflammatory contents uploaded on their pages originated from Pakistan.
“The initial response from international social networking sites indicates that such contents have been hosted from outside the country and to a large extent from a neighbouring country (Pakistan),” Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEIT) said in a statement.
The response of these websites came after the government ordered ban of more than 250 pages charging that morphed images and videos were uploaded displaying alleged atrocities on Muslims. The government also said that these led to the fear psychosis among the people of the North-East and their mass exodus from different parts of the country.
However, one of the intermediary sites has conveyed to the DEIT that uploaders of the inflammatory and hateful contents were outside the jurisdiction of the country,”thereby implying that they are not obliged to take any constructive step to deal with it”.
The DEIT said most of the contents were taken from events “unrelated to the incident occurred in Assam. Hosting of such morphed image and video led to a lot of inciting comments from users on the blogs…and circulation of hate SMSes”.
“The DEIT has been working with international social networking sites on this issue. However, a lot more and quicker action is expected from them to address such a sensitive issue which concern restoring peace, harmony, public order and national security,” the statement said.
It said proxy servers and virtual private network services which hide the user identity appear to have been used for uploading the content. The agencies are continuously monitoring hosting of such inflammatory and harmful content.
In a separate case, Google, Facebook and some other websites are facing criminal charges in a New Delhi court for hosting, what Indian authorities call “objectionable content’. On February, Facebook and Google were forced to remove content from their Indian domains that was considered offensive to Hindus, Muslims and Christians, after a court in New Delhi ruled that certain images were deemed objectionable.