India Delays Google, Facebook Internet Content Liability Trial

March 13, 2012

Google and Facebook were set to go to trial today in India on charges they did not censor content from their websites. The Wall Street Journal reports the trial in which company executives could face fines or jail time is the latest example of the issues tech companies face as they expand to foreign markets.

The trial has now been delayed until May 23.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has appreciated recent efforts by USTR to formally investigate censorship practices in China and hopes the US government will continue to step in on Internet freedom issues so that companies are not left on their own to negotiate with other nations.

The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“More and more we are seeing examples that show the growing battle between Internet censorship and openness. It is all too tempting for governments to filter or censor the Internet for seemingly good social reasons. While tech companies do make reasonable efforts to take down material that is offensive or violates copyright, when they are notified, holding companies criminally responsible for what others do on their websites can have a chilling effect on both speech and commerce online.

“Unreasonable liability rules in other countries can become market barriers. In the US, Congress has recognized that holding Internet and e-commerce businesses liable for the wrongful conduct of their users would jeopardize the growth of this vital industry and place unreasonable burdens on these companies. Getting safe harbor provisions to ensure that companies making a good faith effort to remove reported content are not held liable is a critical feature of U.S. law — the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Our diplomats and trade negotiators should make efforts to include similar protections for US companies in future trade agreements and to ensure we are enforcing existing trade agreements to note instances where Internet censorship is being used as a nontariff trade barrier.

“Holding neutral Internet platforms liable for content posted by others, is a dangerous threat to a free, open Internet. It makes as much sense as holding the mailman responsible for the content of letters and packages. We hope the delay in this trial will provide the opportunity to consider the broader consequences of having neutral platforms police Internet content.”

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