Google lawsuit reaches Indian Supreme Court
A defamation lawsuit against Google has reached the Supreme Court in India, bringing to light the controversial Internet laws in the country.
The future of Internet freedom in India affects a number of different parties. From the service providers that are responsible for content of what is published, to the users who log online, many people have a stake in the way online activity progresses.
At the moment, India is the world's largest democracy and the third largest economy. As an emerging power on the world stage, the future of cyberspace has a huge ripple effect throughout the country and the world at large. The government obviously plays an important role in how this will play out and a recent lawsuit could have massive implications for the country's online future.
Defamation lawsuit reaches Supreme Court
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Indian Supreme Court will be hearing on whether or not Google India is responsible for defamatory comments that were posted using its blogging platform, Blogspot. The problem arose when Gopala Krishna, an activist in working in the country, published a post that accused the construction-materials company, Visaka Industries Ltd, of being protected by the ruling Congress party.
As a result, Visaka brought a defamation lawsuit against Google India. In 2011, the Internet company challenged the charges at the High Court in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, but lost. Now Google is bringing the case to the Supreme Court.
What is interesting about the case is who is being persecuted. Though Google did not knowingly publish the material, it is still the one being put on trial. The Internet giant argues that it should be held responsible for what is published on its site, given that it cannot control what people decide to blog about.
This controversy surrounding this trial arises from some questionable rules governing content on the web. There are a number of outlets online that can be used to voice one's opinion. Be it something as lengthy as a blog or as short as the 140 characters in a tweet, an individual's thoughts and feelings seem to be growing more prominent on the Internet.
However, this is exactly what the Indian government seems to be trying to prevent. According to Tech Crunch, the government created laws in 2009 that would force Internet companies to be liable for any offensive content that appeared on their site. While an online publication may have some element of control of what is and is not published, an organization like Facebook, or in this instance, Google, does not.
The news source noted that in December 2011, the government asked Google and other companies to regulate any content that its users post and remove anything that is defamatory or objectionable. In 2012, two women were arrested for remarks about politicians that were made on their Facebook pages. The past rulings are not encouraging for Google India's future.
The government has also engaged in other practices that have limiting effects on the Internet. PBS reported that by the time Edward Snowden had leaked information about the invasive programs being run by the U.S. National Security Administration, the Indian government had already launched a surveillance system that allowed the government to access the communications content and metadata that travel across Indian telecommunications networks.
These actions are certainly detrimental to the future of the Internet in India. Not only do they put harsh limitations on what individuals can post, but it allows the government to track exactly who is posting what. As an emerging country, it is important that those in power, both in India and around the world, reverse these policies so as to let a greater number of voices be heard.