An Indian federal minister said social networks have to be more responsive and responsible, even if they have their headquarters abroad, after some content on these networks was said to have stoked fears of communal violence in India.
While ruling out shutting down social networks, Sachin Pilot, the country's minister of state for communications and IT, told the TV channel IBNLive late Monday that social networks had not been very cooperative when asked to block inflammatory content, and warned them about the laws of the country.
The social network platforms also had not cooperated with the government's request to provide the registration details and access logs of the people who uploaded such content, the government said separately in a statement through the Press Information Bureau.
"An intermediary social networking site has responded that the up-loaders of the inflammatory and hateful content are outside the jurisdiction of the country, thereby implying that they are not obliged to take any constructive step to deal with it," the government said.
The Indian government did not name any social networks in particular, but the reference to international headquarters suggests it was referring to services run by companies such as Google and Facebook.
India is trying to establish that the people uploading the content were in Pakistan and intent on creating communal trouble in India. The two countries have a longstanding dispute over Kashmir.
Thousands of people from the Northeast fled cities like Bangalore to go back home after warnings online and through SMS (short message service) that they would be attacked by Muslims in retaliation for attacks against them by local people in Assam.
India has so far issued instructions to block 245 URLs, including some on social networks, but inflammatory and harmful content continued to appear on their sites despite an advisory and request made by the government to remove such content, the government said.
India's Information Technology Act requires intermediaries such as Internet service providers to remove content considered objectionable within 36 hours of being notified of it.(
"We understand the gravity of the situation, strongly condemn acts of violence, and continue to work closely with relevant authorities," Google said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that content intended to incite violence, such as hate speech, is prohibited on Google products that host content, including YouTube, Google+ and Blogger. "We act quickly to remove such material flagged by our users. We also comply with valid legal requests from authorities wherever possible, consistent with our longstanding policy," Google said.
Google, Facebook and other social networking companies drew criticism last December from Minister for Communications, Kapil Sibal, who said that some of the Internet companies were allowing content that would fail to live up to the laws that they are enforcing in their own country by their own community standards. When asked by the ministry in some instances to remove certain offensive content, the Internet companies had declined, citing their community standards, Sibal said.
Two private court cases were filed last year in Delhi against Facebook, Google, and some other Internet companies for alleged objectionable content on their websites. The Internet companies have typically argued that they are not responsible for content on websites that are run by their parent companies abroad.