Google Inc. told Indian regulators in a confidential February memo that the nation’s tough proposed restrictions on Internet content could present serious problems for the company and others hoping to tap a promising growth market. The regulations were enacted last month little-changed despite Google’s input. Google’s concerns, laid out in a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, add to criticism from civil rights advocates who say the new rules amount to a crackdown on free speech on the Web.
In the memo, Google 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 are increasingly making use of it in their everyday lives.” Among other things, the rules require websites to remove objectionable content including anything “grossly harmful” or “harassing.” They require Internet service providers and social-networking sites to offer terms-of-service agreements with users that bar certain types of content.
The websites also are responsible for removing content that goes out of bounds within 36 hours of being notified by government authorities. A spokesman for India’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said the agency conducted a thorough review of public comments on a draft of the rules. The spokesman said the agency will issue a “clarification” soon to address concerns free-speech advocates have raised in recent weeks.