Google and Facebook are facing a trial in the Indian courts today after earlier hearings failed to resolve complaints that the companies are not taking responsibility for user-posted content, the Wall Street Journal reports. The case centers around regulations put into effect in 2011 that make web hosts responsible for the content uploaded by their users, with journalist Vinay Rai complaining that Facebook, Google, and 10 other services wilfully host material that "seeks to create enmity, hatred and communal violence." Under the regulations, companies have 36 hours to remove any material from their websites that breaches the government's guidelines of taste and decency having been notified — something Rai claims has not happened.
The firms say that the regulations are incompatible with India's Information Technology Act 2008, which should protect them from liability where user-posted material is concerned. It has also been claimed that the material Rai is citing has not been flagged as inappropriate in many cases, making it impossible for the networks to filter the content. The companies allege that Rai has complained directly to the government, rather than reporting the content to them in the first instance. Both Facebook and Google have previously removed content that has been flagged.
Civil liberties campaigners have described the case as a crackdown on free speech, while others have called upon sites to proactively monitor all content that is posted by their users. Other similar complaints are also being brought against the networks, though both Google and Facebook have petitioned the courts to dismiss the case. If the companies are found guilty, it's possible that some executives could face jail time and the firms involved hit with hefty fines.