Face­book Makes it Harder to Re­move Of­fen­sive Con­tent, Wants Govt No­tice

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit - Neha.Alawadhi@ times­group.com

New Delhi: Face­book, the world’s largest so­cial net­work, has made it tougher for of­fen­sive con­tent to be taken down and will do so only if it gets a le­gal or gov­ern­ment no­tice, in keep­ing with a re­cent Supreme Court rul­ing. “We have changed our process. So now, be­fore we re­strict con­tent in In­dia for il­le­gal­ity, we re­quire that the gov­ern­ment sub­mit le­gal process to us and we scru­ti­nise that with our le­gal teams,” Face­book’s global pol­icy head Mon­ica Bick­ert told ET by phone. “We would not re­strict the con­tent if some­body in the com­mu­nity, some­body out­side the gov­ern­ment, flagged that con­tent.”

In­dia had 14,971 con­tent re­stric­tion re­quests in the July-De­cem­ber pe­riod, sec­ond only to France, and down from 15,155 re­quests in the first half of 2015, ac­cord­ing to a Face­book re­port re­leased on Thurs­day. The take-down calls were made by le­gal and gov­ern­ment agen­cies as well as NGOs and Face­book mem­bers. The num­bers in the next re­port will re­flect Face­book’s de­ci­sion to act only on MONICABICKERT le­gal or gov­ern­ment re­quests.

In­dia also made the sec­ond-high­est re­quests for user data at 5,561, af­ter the US, which made 19,235 such de­mands. Face­book gives users the op­tion to flag or re­port ob­jec­tion­able con­tent in­clud­ing posts, pho­tos, mes­sages, com­ments, pro­files, events and pages. Con­tent is blocked or taken down if it vi­o­lates Face­book’s com­mu­nity stan­dards. Bick­ert clar­i­fied that the new rules do not mean that peo­ple can no longer re­port of­fen­sive con­tent.

“When peo­ple in In­dia re­port con­tent we will con­tinue to look to see if it vi­o­lates our com­mu­nity stan­dards and if it does, we will re­move it. It’s only in th­ese unusual cir­cum­stances where it doesn’t vi­o­late our com­mu­nity stan­dards but does vi­o­late the In­dian law that we would re­quire the gov­ern­ment or­ders,” she said. The Supreme Court last year read down Sec­tion 79 of the In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Act, 2000, to say that a non­govern­ment re­quest for tak­ing down on­line con­tent should be ac­com­pa­nied by a court or­der. At the be­hest of law stu­dent Shreya Sing­hal, the court had also scrapped con­tro­ver­sial Sec­tion 66A of the act, which gave the au­thor­i­ties wide pow­ers to pe­nalise free speech on on­line fo­rums that were con­sid­ered of­fen­sive.

The case for com­pli­ance with lo­cal laws is strong for Face­book, which counts In­dia as its sec­ond-largest mar­ket with 142 mil­lion monthly ac­tive users. In the past three years, In­dia has al­most al­ways been the top re­questor for con­tent re­stric­tions world­wide, ac­cord­ing to Face­book.

“For true trans­parency, the com­pany will also need to start re­port­ing the con­tent re­moved suo moto un­der com­mu­nity stan­dards,” said Chin­mayi Arun, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Gover­nance at the Na­tional Law Univer­sity in New Delhi.

Global Pol­icy Head, Face­book

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