Court summons Google, Facebook

New Delhi - An Indian magistrates court has issued a summons to 21 internet sites, including Facebook, Google and Yahoo! to answer charges of circulating "obscene, lascivious content", a report said on Friday.

The summons comes amid a push by the Indian government to force major internet players into filtering out "unacceptable" content, including faked naked pictures of political leaders, and religiously sensitive images.

Acting on a private suit, New Delhi metropolitan magistrate Sudesh Kumar said internet companies were clearly circulating "obscene, lascivious content which... tends to deprave and corrupt", The Press Trust of India reported.

"There are certain degrading and obscene photographs of various political leaders belonging to different political parties and photographs pasted and the language used is also obscene, filthy and degrading," Kumar said.

Earlier this month, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal pledged a crackdown on "unacceptable" online content, saying companies such as Google, Yahoo! and Facebook had ignored India's demands to screen images and data before they are uploaded.

His comments provoked anger and derision among Indian internet users, with experts arguing that such demands could not be enforced and smacked of state censorship.

Sibal rejected any suggestion of an assault on free speech, saying the government had pleaded for self-regulation by companies such as Google to filter out deeply "insulting" material.

He highlighted examples of faked pictures of naked politicians, including Congress Party head Sonia Gandhi.

India has in the past moved to block the publication of books and other material seen as disrespectful to Gandhi, or other members of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has dominated India's political life since independence.
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