The matter of censorship of the web is shaping up to be big fight in India. After the governmentâ€™s move censor content, it is apparently the turn of lower courts to get into the game. A trial court in Delhi issued notices to 21 websites for posting derogatory, defamatory, and incendiary content. But just like the last time when content providers like Facebook, Google, Twitter and others were asked to set up a screening mechanism, and they had refused to comply, this time too, the web majors are having none of this nonsense.
They have gone straight to the High Court to complain about the trial court summon orders. The High Court has now issued a notice to the Delhi Police. They have also summoned the original petitioner Vinay Rai who had petitioned the lower court in the matter.
The case, which is before Justice Kait, will come up for hearing on Thursday. The trial court has issued the notice to the service providers on the basis of material submitted by the complainant. The material had contained offensive content and derogatory articles on Hindu Gods, Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ. The trial court had asked the central government to immediately take action and file a report by Jan 13.
This is not the first time that the issue of censorship of the net has come up. Earlier Union Minister Kapil Sibal was in the mediaâ€™s crosshairs after he had demanded that internet service providers set up appropriate mechanisms to censure objectionable content on their website.
Given the censorship debate raging in other parts of the world, this issue is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. What is clear is that the extreme nature of some of the content of the net feeds into the censorship debate. On the other hand, it is the desire of governments around the world to control all aspects of information that feeds into resistance to censorship.
The middle ground is all that is available. Both sides should try and occupy it.