Impossible to stop upload of vulgar content: Google

Tue 28 Feb 2017

Trying to prevent a person from uploading objectionable content online before he even does it will be like attempting to prevent murder, unless it is a case of a repeat offender like a serial killer, Google told the Supreme Court on Monday.

The search engine giant was responding to the court’s repeated query on whether it can set up some mechanism or body to identify and prevent those who upload obscene content featuring women and children.

Bench concerned

A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit was referring to the loss of reputation and dignity of women and children when sexually abusive videos of them are uploaded on websites.

“There is no reasonable way to prevent a person from uploading even before the said content is originated. It is well-nigh impossible. No way to nip it in the bud. Data numbering in billions are uploaded ...” Abhishek Manu Singhvi, counsel for Google, said.

Noting that every person sitting in this courtroom wants a mechanism to prevent or stop such abusive material from finding its way into the Internet, Mr. Singhvi said an intermediary such as Google could not prevent any person uploading from anywhere in the world from “showing his true colours”.

Repeat offender

“Murder is impossible to prevent unless there is a pattern in the crime like in the case of serial killers. Yes, we can detect the footprints of a pattern in the case of a repeat offender on the Internet like in the case of a serial killer but not otherwise,” Mr. Singhvi said.

“As with all crime, the job is to go after the criminal. But to try to strain the intermediary [Google] to bring in a preventive profiling mechanism is impossible,” the senior advocate said.

The court asked the government about the possibility of a preventive mechanism. “Unless I know something has been done, how can I prevent it,” Centre’s counsel Balasubramanium replied with a question.

Objectionable words

When Justice Lalit suggested whether “200 or so words” found objectionable could be blocked, Mr. Singhvi said these words might be used in other perfectly legal contexts on the Internet and these functions would also be unwittingly blocked.

The court is hearing a PIL petition filed by Prajwala, a non-governmental organisation, highlighting the increasing number of instances of sexual assault videos of women and children being uploaded on the internet.


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