Though Google’s Transparency Report shows a rise in demand from the government of India to remove content from the website, Indian authorities are not finding anything out of place. “There is nothing out of place, and the number does not indicate the Indian government is trying to monitor the web,” said Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot.
The number of content removal requests from the Indian government received by Google has increased by 49 per cent compared to the previous reporting period. According to Pilot, requests from other countries have also gone up manifold.
“For a country of 100 million internet users, the number of requests made is low compared to other nations,” he said. The department of information technology has made only seven requests for removal of contents between July 2011 and December 2011, which is not alarming, he added.
According to the Google report, India saw one of largest number of government requests (that were not court orders) to remove content for the period from July to December 2011. The report released by Google this week, talked about an increase in the request from governments across the globe to remove content from the web.
“The number of requests (for removing contents) going up only shows that the site is allowing objectionable material on the web, and more people are concerned about it,” said Gulshan Rai, head of India’s Computer Emergency Response Team and coordinator of a committee on cyber law.
However, Google has a very different take on the issue. “We noticed that government agencies of different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not. This is the fifth data set that we’ve released. And, just like every other time earlier, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect — Western democracies not typically associated with censorship,” said Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst at Google on the official Google blog.
Indian security agencies feel one cannot apply the same law followed in the US to India. “The data and scenario with respect to India and the US cannot be compared as one does not know the background on which the data is compiled. The laws in the two country are somewhat different. Therefore, one cannot apply the same rules,” said Rai.
A Google India spokesperson said, “We always follow the law of the land where we operate.”
In April 2011, India passed a law that makes companies responsible for user content posted on their websites. Under the law, if there is a complaint, they will have to take down the content within 36 hours. In December, the issue of objectionable content stirred up a hornets’ nest, with the government dragging Google and other websites such as Microsoft Corp, Twitter, Yahoo Inc and Facebook Inc to remove certain contents which the government thought was “objectionable”.
The issue sparked a debate over the freedom of internet and censorship.
(With inputs from Pradeesh Chandran)