Indian Court Demands Google Hand Over Anonymous Blogger's Identity

from the anonymity-not-allowed dept

It would appear that Google is discovering some of the differences in the legal system in India as compared to the US. Just after we wrote about how Google (along with Microsoft and Yahoo) were sued over ads, there are some stories coming out about how an Indian court has ordered Google to hand over the identity of an anonymous blogger who was criticizing an Indian company, Gremach Infrastructure Equipments & Projects Ltd. While anonymous speech is somewhat protected (within certain limits) in the US, that’s not the case in many other countries. As the link above notes, this may force Google to change the way it does business in India.

In some ways, this is just another example of a problem that many folks have been asking about for years. On a borderless web, how do you know whose jurisdiction covers what? If the blogging all occurred on US servers hosted by a US company, should they be covered by US laws… or Indian laws? Or, even, some other country entirely? If you agree that once it’s on the internet, it can be covered by laws in other countries, you end up with a bad result: the worst, strictest laws suddenly become the laws everywhere. That’s a ridiculous outcome, but it’s exactly where things go when you start suing an American company concerning content hosted in America under laws from another country.

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Companies: google, gremach

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Comments on “Indian Court Demands Google Hand Over Anonymous Blogger's Identity”

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36 Comments
bob says:

The article really wasn’t clear.
Was this person posting on an Indian server?
If he wasn’t, and he’s not an Indian citizen there isn’t jack they can do about it.

I can sit here all day and rail against Tata consulting’s unfair business practices knowingly skirting U.S. law by dumping underpaid L1 visa holders on the American tech worker market.

I can type it over and over … even if it weren’t true, which it is. They can read it all they like in India and there isn’t thing one they can do.

Jake says:

Rock And A Hard Place

I don’t see what choice the Indian government –any government- has but to demand that overseas websites making their content available in their country comply with that country’s laws or be blocked in that country, because the alternative sets another potentially dangerous precedent; an Internet whose population of content creators can pick and choose which country’s laws they are subject to.

WG (profile) says:

Re: maybe we need a new country

You know, that’s not a bad idea! The only problem, though, is who would be responsible for deciding just how the infrastucture would be set up to allow for logical freedom of expression, such as we have here in the U.S., and be immune from the repressive, archaic, and paranoid delusions that permeate most of the Mid-East countries?

MAtt says:

Re: Re: maybe we need a new country

Start by creating a new definition for the word “country,” or at least not restricting your thinking to what it means to be a country as we know it. As for governance, we may need a paradigm shift. True communism doesn’t work, yet strict totalitarian rule is out of the question. True fascism is interesting, though prone to abuse as much as anything else.
There exists the same opportunity as had the founders of the US Constitution to observe and learn from extant forms of government.
Now is the time to clear the cob webs from the part of your brain in which your college computer ethics class resides…

elmer (profile) says:

What is stopping Google from handing over bogus info? Or for that matter claiming the IP comes from out of India and is thus out of jurisdiction?

With all of these countries demanding IDs from bloggers I imagine that any serious blogger from these countries is already taking security measures, so using an US based proxy wouldn’t be to far of a stretch.

The whole liability thing should be just as simple to deal with. It should be India/the company that has to prove that the blogger falls within their jurisdiction. And all Google has to do is point to an IP that isn’t based in India to prove that he isn’t. Meanwhile they should countersue for all the bad PR they are getting! Especially if they are forced to reveal any information, bogus or not.

Eskimo Heel (profile) says:

Shopping for jurisdiction

There is already heavy duty ‘shopping for jurisdiction’ here in the US. If your crime is ‘obscenity’ on the net, prosecutors go after you in the most conservative of the states – say in a small conservative Baptist town in Iowa – even if the servers and the content owner live in West Hollywood. Soon I imagine you will be able to be tried in Iran for showing an indecent picture of a woman – you know, no veil – on a web site in New York with servers in Holland. That will be fun, yes?

Kyros (profile) says:

Google

Google is just a company. But it’s a good company. Google does indicate if Chinese results are being censored, which is a step forward. It’s better then nothing, which is what the Chinese would of gotten otherwise.

In this case, again, just block all the Indian IP ranges. I’m not sure how Google with handle this actually, but it seems if they go along with it, this guy may be in physical danger.

Rekrul says:

If Google has servers or offices in another country, I believe that it’s considered to be a business in that country and must abide by their laws.

Now if only someone could come up with some way for Google to have all its servers and offices located only in America, but yet allow the rest of the world to access those servers. Maybe some kind of global network of connected computers so that users in one country could access servers in another country. You could call it the WorldNet or GlobalNet, or something catchy like that. Everyone would connect to it in their home country and be able to access computers anywhere in the world. Gee, I’m surprised that nobody has ever designed anything like that before. I’m sure it would be a big hit.

Nah, way too improbable. Much easier to just open a branch of your company in every country in the world where you want people to be able to access your service…

Angry_Indian says:

“Whats an ‘international arrest warrant’?”

Something routed through Interpol, most probably.

I’m an Indian BTW, and I’d like to tell my ‘elected representatives’ where exactly to stuff that court order of theirs. High time we realised that it’s the 21st century and updated our laws!

P.S. What’s Techdirt’s policy if a court now demands my IP address? 😛

IHand says:

Comment #35 is exactly correct, unfortunately.

Indian Law is not the problem here, as much as Indian lawlessness is.

Help from the Indian Courts is therefore optional.

To unmask IP addresses of any Orkut and Google user, the crucial step is to make the right connections with Indian Police (if you are in India, everybody and their grandmother knows at least three and one third middlemen who will be glad to link you up).

Indian Police seems to have very special deals with Orkut and Google for obtaining IP addresses quickly and efficiently without any Court involvement. No subpoena required ! And this is not corruption, but just the invocation of Indian Criminal Procedure Code.

For all you care, the affected Google or Orkut user can be American or Greenlander or Chinese living in Kinshaha. That hasn’t been a problem for the Indian Police in extracting IP addresses.

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