In a confidential memo, Google told Indian regulators that tough proposed restrictions on Internet content could hamper the company and others in a promising market by exposing them to liability for a broad swath of material published by third parties.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the rules require websites to remove objectionable content, including anything "grossly harmful" or "harassing." They require Internet-service providers and social-networking sites to bar certain types of content under terms-of-service agreements with users. The websites also are responsible for removing objectionable content within 36 hours of being notified by authorities.
The WSJ says Google disagreed with the specific wording that describes objectionable material:
Google's memo shows that the company sought changes aimed at limiting its potential liability for hosting objectionable content posted by third parties. For example, the company wanted to eliminate a section of the draft rules that outlawed specific categories of content and replace it with a more general ban on material that "violates any law for the time being in force." The final rules banned any material that is "grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous" as well as anything "ethnically objectionable" or "disparaging" or that "impersonate(s) another person."
Google's memo said regulations on Internet companies "play a crucial role in determining how free a medium of communication the Internet will be for the world's peoples, especially the millions of Indians who're increasingly making use of it in their everyday lives."
Google argued that the new rules would expose it to liability for user-published content.
A spokesman for India's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said the agency conducted a thorough review of public comments on the draft rules. The ministry will issue a "clarification" soon to address concerns free-speech advocates have raised in recent weeks, he said.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the new rules.