Google Managers Could Face Life Imprisonment for Defamation…
…for the words of a Blogspot.com customer.
No, seriously. The WSJ is reporting on a case now before the Indian Supreme Court that will effectively decide if Google (and others) can be held “liable for criminal activities on its network.”
The case against Google was brought by Visaka, which makes corrugated cement and asbestos fiber sheets, after an anti-asbestos blog hosted by Blogspot contained allegations Visaka was being protected because it was backed by leaders of the ruling Congress party. Visaka said it had no connection to the party and filed a case charging Google India with criminal conspiracy, defamation and publishing content that is defamatory.
The fact that this case has gone this far is very disturbing. In the US, Google would not be liable for any defamatory comments made by a blogger on its Blogspot network, but India might rule differently. Google could be forced to monitor all content published or, more likely, pull out of the burgeoning India market.
Apparently India is not much of a fan of free speech on the internet, amending its laws in 2009 to make sure that internet firms would be held liable for any defamation, blasphemy, or derogatory content hosted on their networks. While its Supreme Court has yet to rule on that, India continues to walk down a pretty scary path that would effectively remove free speech.
It could be years before we get a ruling on this. In the meantime, I would think twice about setting up any internet hosting company in India!