Google gives India a lesson on democracy and the Internet

India received two very important lessons today, thanks to Google –  democracy 101 and Internet freedom 101. Google has made it abundantly clear that China is a totalitarian regime and India is not, and the Internet shouldn’t be filtered based on words.

India Internet Censorship Protest

Indian protestors hold placards and flowers outside the residence of India's telecommunications minister Kapil Sibal as they protest against the government plans to censor the Internet. Pic: AP.

This is what Google’s advocate Mr NK Kaul has to say about democracy:

The issue relates to a constitutional issue of freedom of speech and expression and suppressing it was not possible as the right to freedom of speech in democratic India separates us from a totalitarian regime like China.

“In India, we have the (right to) freedom of speech and expression (granted by Constitution) and we have the courage to say that. Suppressing it is not possible. That is what distinguishes us from China or any other totalitarian regime.”

This whole lawsuit is the effort of Journalist named Vinay Rai. You can read why Mr. Rai has filed the lawsuit here.

So what’s Internet 101 from Google for India:

Search engines like Google do not and cannot control the websites to which users are transported to by them. The contents belong to the websites to which the users have visited and not to the search engines.

Internet Filtering 101

The queries could relate to Virgin Airlines or for that matter ‘virgin areas for inventions.

It’s easy for people to say you can use filters. If we were to block the word ‘sex’, for instance, all data on ration cards, passports, etc. will get blocked in one go as the word ‘sex’ figures in all this data.

Google’s lawyers went in to some corporate mumbo jumbo, but here’s the gist :

There’s democracy and then there is the Internet. If you want China-like censorship, then you will get China-like censorship, but don’t pretend that you are democracy.

Even if China doesn’t have a democracy, things get done there. Investors like that. Imagine a things-won’t-get-done India without the democracy tag?

Blanket Ban

If you find objectionable material then the obvious thing to do is to remove the content legally, if possible. Now the question is, is it possible to legally remove the content? Of course it is. There is a law called IT Law of 2008 which gives immunity to companies like Google from the content posted by a third party.

If offensive content is found, then the company should be notified and given 36 hours of time to respond, failing which the company can be prosecuted.

There’s is no evidence that this procedure was followed. In fact, Vinay Rai, who filed the lawsuit has clearly said that he didn’t want to deal with foreign companies directly and approached the Indian government.

What they now want is a blanket ban if Google, Facebook and others don’t comply. When the Internet world is grappling with the sudden surge of data and trying to solve the Big Data problem, India poses an unnecessary problem : Big Pain.

Suing Internet…

Remember Arindum Chaudhuri  and how he sued Google, Caravan and a few others? Well this thing is no different. I have appropriately pointed out that Arindum should sue the Internet and not Google. Mr. Arindum at least made Caravan a party in the lawsuit. Caravan is the publication which published a piece Arindum didn’t like.

On the contrary, Google, Facebook and few others are facing a lawsuit for the content posted by someone else and who by the way are not part of the lawsuit.