New Delhi: Indian government agencies make the highest number of requests to internet giants like Facebook and Google for content removal, a report released by Comparitech, an England-based pro-consumer website on tech services, has said.
According to the report, India made 77,620 requests for the removal of content from the five platforms studied — Facebook, Google, Twitter, Wikimedia and Microsoft — between July 2013 and December 2018. Russia came second with 77,163 requests. Pakistan made 9,771 requests.
India also topped the individual list for requests made to Facebook, which, at 70,815, is 91 per cent of the total appeals forwarded by the country.
India makes up 33.33 per cent of the overall requests submitted to Facebook, followed by France at 20.23 per cent.
To compile the report, Comparitech analysed data from transparency reports released by the five platforms.
The practice of recording the number of content removal requests was initiated by Google in 2009, and social media giants followed suit.
India and Facebook
The Comparitech report details some of the instances that elicited requests for content removal. In June 2016, it states, India petitioned Facebook “to remove a photo that depicted a sketch of the Prophet Mohammed”.
Islam forbids any pictorial depiction of the Prophet. However, since the content didn’t violate Facebook’s community standards, it was just made unavailable in India.
Facebook has courted much scrutiny in India for allegedly censoring content. From August to October last year, months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, several journalists accused Facebook of censoring political content, according to a report in Scroll.
This was reportedly done through a temporary suspension of accounts, by labelling news as spam, and preventing news organisations from promoting articles critical of leaders of the ruling party.
Two popular pages of the Trinamool Congress were blocked in October 2018, allegedly after a large number of BJP supporters reported them to Facebook. They were restored once the Trinamool Congress approached Facebook.
However, Facebook has denied the allegations, saying that “suppressing content or preventing people from seeing what matters most to them is simply contradictory with Facebook’s mission”.
India on the other platforms
India ranks among the top five in the lists for Twitter and Google, at fourth and fifth, respectively — Turkey (30,183 requests) and Russia (61,471), respectively, top the lists.
However, India ranks last in the Microsoft category. The report does not explain why.
Along with Russia, Turkey and India, France, too, makes repeat appearances in all the lists.
Although one would expect China, a country known to exert deep control on its internet spaces, to be on the lists as well, it is absent from all except the one for Microsoft. This is because it has blocked several social media sites and apps entirely.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.