India to Prosecute Facebook, Google on Content, Times Reports

India’s government has given approval to prosecute social-media sites run by Facebook Inc., Google Inc. (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO) Inc. and 18 others for allegedly causing harm to national integration, the Times of India said, citing a report by the Department of Information Technology.

The government agency told a magistrate in New Delhi yesterday that the 21 social-networking websites retained material that could “instigate enmity between groups” after being urged to remove objectionable content, the newspaper said.

Government officials met representatives from Facebook and Google and legal experts on Dec. 15 to discuss ways to increase the government’s presence on the Internet, said Pavan Duggal, a Supreme Court lawyer who attended the meeting. India is increasing monitoring of the Internet after recent terrorist attacks and as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh faces criticism for corruption in his administration.

Some of India’s 38 million Facebook users have used the site to support an anti-corruption movement led by 73-year-old hunger striker Anna Hazare, who’s demanding the government strengthen graft-fighting agency Lokpal.

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal on Dec. 15 denied that the government intends to censor free speech.

India’s government has held at least six meetings with Facebook, Google, Twitter Inc. and Yahoo! (YHOO) since Sept. 5, asking them to manage content and block offensive material, Sibal said Dec. 6.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anoop Agrawal in Mumbai at aagrawal8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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