Supreme Court asks Google about internal mechanism to identify and take down obscene content

The Supreme Court today sought to know from internet service provider Google whether it could “prevent” uploading of obscene contents like videos of sexual violence on websites.
A bench of Justices M B Lokur and U U Lalit asked Google about its internal mechanism or “in-house procedure” to identify such obscene contents posted on websites and also about “how much can they do to prevent it”.

“Can you not prevent it? We are simply asking you can you not prevent it,” the bench asked senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was representing Google India. Singhvi said the company was unconditionally willing to cooperate on these issues and they should be informed about any such material posted on websites so that they can act.

He said the information about such material should come to them from the government or an adjudicating authority which could be a kind of filter. In the absence of these, a detailed in-house procedure could be adopted and they would get such contents deleted or withdrawn within 36 hours of receipt of information.

However, the bench asked, “Take for instance, nobody has reported (about any such material), do you act on your own to decipher it? We are asking, is it possible for you or not?”
Responding to it, Singhvi said, “No. Actually it is not possible for us…It is not something which we can discover on our own. If it is reported, we can do it. There is no legal obligation on me to discover”.

Advocate Aparna Bhat, who has been assisting the court as amicus curiae, told the bench that when the matter had come to fore, there were 8-9 such obscene videos on which the CBI had conducted investigation, but now several other such materials have surfaced and the agency must be directed to look into it.

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To this, the bench observed, “We have not stayed any investigation. There is no stay on the investigation”. Bhat argued that there should be a mechanism in place to ensure that no such videos or materials are uploaded on the Internet. She also referred to the recent incident in Kerala where an actress was allegedly molested and abused inside her car and the act was purportedly recorded on a mobile phone.

The amicus also argued that Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, dealt with the issue of child pornography but the penal law was not sufficient to deal with the issue at hand.