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Internet giants face court action over ‘objectionable content’ in India

Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft have been summonsed by a Delhi Court to defend themselves against criminal charges that they, among other internet sites, have hosted 'objectionable' content in India.

The private case, which has its next hearing on 13 March, has been filed by Indian journalist Vinay Rai, after he found offence at religious content published on multiple internet sites last year.

As a result, Metropolitan Magistrate Sudesh Kumar, who is hearing the case, issued notices to 21 Internet ventures in India on 23 December 2011.

The magistrate has now involved the foreign-based parent companies of ten of the internet sites after their Indian ventures claimed the former were responsible for the content published on their sites worldwide.

Magistrate Sudesh Kumar said: "Let the process (to serve the summons) on accused be sent through the MEA [Ministry of External Affairs] as per the process," with regard to the ten foreign-based internet companies involved, according to Indiantelevision.com.

Google divisions YouTube, Orkut, and Blogspot are among those US firms whom the magistrate is demanding appear in an Indian court.

Meanwhile, India's Communication and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal has said there was no plan to ban any internet sites or curb their freedom.

Speaking on 14 January, the Minister said the case in the courts relates only to obscene or communally dangerous matter published on websites.

India's Information Technology Act requires that internet service providers remove content that is found to be objectionable within 36 hours of notification.

An appeal by the sites which have had notices issued by a trial court is reportedly listed to appear before the Delhi High Court on 16 January.

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