The controversial Indian legal imbroglio over censorship of web content and involving twenty companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft has been deferred until May 23.
Top executives from al subpoenaed companies were originally scheduled to make a court appearance yesterday but executives of all companies have been exempted from appearing in person by an earlier higher court order.
The case stems from a complaint instigated by journalist, Vinay Rai, who claimed that web content companies should be prosecuted for alleged offenses such as criminal conspiracy, defamation, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and race and obscene content, among others.
Google, Facebook and Microsoft have vigorously petitioned to quash the case with Yahoo’s Indian arm having already extracted itself from proceedings.
New laws passed last year oblige internet companies to remove material that is objectionable, harmful, defamatory or blasphemous within 36 hours of notification.
The affected companies are arguing that India's IT law protects them from liability for user generated content but the companies acknowledged they have a responsibility to remove content, in some cases, but only if notified about it.
Aside from arguing for free speech, they also claim that monitoring their services without receiving complaints would not be feasible, given the amounts of traffic on their sites. If convicted, the online executives could face jail time coupled with significant fines. ®